joreth: (Bad Computer!)
[livejournal.com profile] margareta87 shared this website and suggested that everyone read everything on it. So I'm reading the most recent blog post and I want to share it specifically.

https://norasamaran.com/2016/08/28/variations-on-not-all-men/
"Sometimes he can’t tell the difference between him feeling bad because he hurt somebody, and feeling bad because someone hurt him. ... When Kyle is 20, or 30, or 40, or 60, and harms someone by action or omission, where will the ‘parent’ be who can say “you are good and loved and not shameful, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right.”?"
I have an abusive ex that I talk about often. I *think* that I've done most of the emotional repair work so that I'm no longer acutely affected by my past relationship with him, but he makes such a good illustration of the messiness of emotional abuse that I continue to talk about him as a tool (heh, pun intended) to teach ethical lessons. This was basically what he was like. He was unable to distinguish between feeling hurt because someone hurt him and feeling hurt because *he* hurt someone and they reacted to it.

As the blogger, Shea Emma Fett phrased it, being victimized by acts of control is different from being victimized by my resistance to your control. In my most recent blog piece about beliefs vs. actions, I phrase it as raising your hand to slap someone and then having your hand hurt when you strike the arm that they raised to block your slap. Where was the grownup for my ex to say "people love you, and you did this thing, now stop acting like an ass and go make it right"? When I, eventually, tried to take that role, I got punished for it. I was lumped right in with the "bad guy" and we were both seen as "attacking" him. I was called "intolerant" and told that I was a One True Wayist because I told him that his method of keeping his partners small for his own comfort was unethical and hurtful and that *he* needed to do the work to let them grow rather than making them stay small on his own timetable.

"If you harm someone and then make it so that they feel afraid to tell you about it, be aware that women are likely coddling you constantly day in and day out in ways that exhaust them and that you take as normal and do not even notice."
He did this too. He made having a difference of opinion to him so intolerable that most of the family just let things go rather than argue. And they didn't make it clear that they were "agreeing to disagree" either. Often, he and I would have an argument, he would go away to complain to the others in the group, then come back and say "I talked to everyone else and we all agree that you're wrong", but then one or more of them would come to me privately to say that they actually agreed with me and disagreed with him but they didn't want to say anything because it was too much trouble to start a fight about it.

People in the group were constantly rearranging things in order to make him feel comforted or to accommodate him. If an argument got too heated, he would shut down, go into a semi-catatonic state, and when things got really tense he even reverted to self-harm and threats of self-harm. People in that group would literally force themselves into situations where they felt physically and emotionally unsafe just to prevent him from having a meltdown. Any attempt to tell him that his actions harmed them was met with said meltdown in which people had to back up and take back what was said. He called it "admitting they were wrong" and "owning their own shit" and he also called it "backtracking" and being "unreliable" which made them afraid because there was no right answer and no way to get out of the quicksand bog of arguing with him. I called it "badgering them into conceding." His victim called it "gaslighting". Whatever it was, he rewrote reality around him so that he was always right and everyone else catered to his "needs".
"Is it possible they have tried to tell you in a nice way, and you have clapped your hands over your ears or made it hard for them, and eventually they lose the capacity to be ‘nice’ while they are getting harmed? If you think back – really think back – how long were they trusting you and quietly asking you for help and empathy and support and compassion and honesty before they lost their buffer of capacity to speak kindly while drowning?"
This is what happens when people "blow up" seemingly "out of nowhere". If it looks like someone is "overreacting", there is a very good chance that they are actually acting appropriately if you add up all the times in the past, instead of taking this one instance in isolation. Regardless of how righteous you feel in your position (and believe me, I've seen plenty of people "blow up" at me on things that I'm dead certain that I'm right about - like gently pointing out something mildly racist and having them explode all out of proportion to what I actually said), embed this in your brain - if someone has lost their shit, there is probably something deeper going on. It is likely that they are reacting to an accumulation of things and your most recent encounter is just the straw that broke the camel's back. Now it's *your* job to step back and see if they are reacting to a lifetime of microaggressions and it's not personal to you or if they added together all the times they tried to talk to you about this and they're fed up with you not hearing them.
" if you make it hard for people around you to let you know you have caused harm, you’re going to invoke survival strategies in your friends and colleagues when you think you’re just having a regular hangout with your friend."
This partially explains when people of some sort of privilege get on their FB soapbox to preach about maintaining friends of different viewpoints. For someone with privilege, it's not a big deal to have a friend who has a different perspective when that person has less privilege because that different perspective doesn't affect the more privileged person directly. Their "debates" are all "academic" and they can take them or leave them. But the less privileged person is *harmed* every time they have that "debate" because, for them, it's not academic, it's personal. So one person thinks they're just having a friendly, spirited debate and the other person experiences it as one more cut in the death of a thousand cuts. So they have to employ fucking *survival strategies* in order to maintain that friendship, and eventually it becomes too much to bear. Think about that - the person you think of as a friend has to treat you like they're handling live plutonium and put on protective emotional "gear" just to be in your presence. I hope that makes you feel uncomfortable. Now sit with that discomfort because I'm not going to provide the coddling to make you feel better about yourself over it.
"I would actually apologize to him for having felt afraid. Because my hurt and fear hurt his feelings."
Being victimized by your control is not the same thing as being victimized by my resistance to your control.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
(If you are seeing white text on a black background and the reverse is more comfortable, you can read the Google doc that I used for my final draft here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jDo84msoBu74TQIW2OM4MLiILCoDIiQyzNllinU_FVg/edit?usp=sharing. The wording is identical.)

Modified disclaimer: "This is a personal post so it has extra rules. I don't want advice. I don't want condescension about my age or any other aspect of my identity or lifestyle or about not "seeing clearly" precisely because I've been through some fucked up experiences. I do not want devil's advocate. In fact, since this is all completely about lessons I've learned through very painful personal experience, I'm not interested in entertaining any debate over it. You are welcome to believe that I am wrong about my own life and experiences, if you keep that to yourself. If I see anything in the comments section that makes me regret having been open about my life, it'll be deleted without further explanation."

I have an ex-boyfriend. He abuses women. But he didn't abuse me. I'm not the kind to abuse easily. I'm not totally immune to it. I spent several years in my youth engaged to an emotionally abusive person who was successful at it. In fact, that's partially why I refused to believe it when his victim accused my partner of abuse. I had been through abuse, you see, so I should know it when I see it. And I didn't see it, therefore it didn't exist.

In general, I'm not the kind of prey an abuser looks for. I'm loud, aggressive, I have a strong support network, and I'm extremely confident in my memories and in defending my autonomy and my boundaries. Frankly, I'm too much work for an abuser to abuse. But, here's the thing I learned in my most recent lesson with abusive men: abusers aren't comic book villains twirling their mustachios and plotting out their Rube Goldberg-esque schemes to erase their partners' identities for personal gain. The term "gaslighting" is incredibly valuable, but not all gaslighting looks like the movie the name comes from. In fact, most gaslighting does not look like a film noir movie.

Abusers are often people in pain. They don't abuse because they hate their partners. They abuse because they're afraid. They're afraid of being abandoned. They're afraid that they're unlovable and if their partner ever discovers the "truth" about them, they'll lose that love. They're afraid of who knows what else. But a lot of us are afraid of things like that. So what makes them abusers and us not abusers?

They believe that they are right to address this fear by overwriting someone else's identity. There is also not necessarily a sharp dividing line between "us" and "them".

From the an article by Shea Emma Fett called Abuse In Polyamorous Relationships1 (all bold emphasis in all quoted passages in this post are mine):
"Most importantly, abusive behavior arises from beliefs, not from feelings, which is one of the reasons why people who are abusive are resistant to rehabilitation. I think this is a really important distinction, because people who engage in abusive behaviors can be kind and caring and gentle, and happy and wonderful to be around. They are not abusive because they are evil. They are abusive because the abuse makes sense and feels justified to them."

"[Lundy] Bancroft [author of Why Does He Do That?] says, “Anger and conflict are not the problem; they are normal aspects of life. Abuse doesn’t come from people’s inability to resolve conflicts but from one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another.”"

"What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. ... It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people.

But more than that, many of our fundamental beliefs in relationship[s] create a fertile ground for abuse. The goal of marriage is often longevity at any cost, and the presumption is mutual ownership over not just intimacy, but our partner’s choices, feelings and thoughts. And even if we take care to form our commitments outside of these assumptions, we still often carry a powerful sense of entitlement in intimate relationships. In short, intimate relationships often default to the power over model, and the relationship becomes a struggle for this power."

"The purpose of abuse is to erode a person’s ability to make choices for themselves. The abuser feels justified in taking proactive and punitive actions because of a fundamental sense of entitlement to their partner’s choices."
And from 10 Things I Wish I'd Know About Gaslighting2 by Shea Emma Fett:
"Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality. The rest just happens organically when a person who holds that belief feels threatened. We learn how to control and manipulate each other very naturally. The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t, is an internalized paradigm of ownership. And in my experience, identifying that paradigm is a lot easier than spotting the gaslighting."
I'm not certain that identifying a paradigm of ownership is easier than spotting gaslighting, at least for me, because I've seen some people who are really good at twisting and using language to appear like they're on our side, but aside from that so, what? I've referenced these articles before, many times. Lots of people are talking about abuse nowadays. Why another essay on abuse that is basically just referencing something that's already been said? Well, because I don't think that the concept of "abuse is about beliefs" has really sunk in yet. I've spent many years yelling on the internet about why hierarchy* and rules in poly relationships are dangerous. People keep insisting that they can be done "non-abusively" or that everyone agrees to it therefore it's not abuse, but I don't seem to be able to get my point across - that it's not whether this specific action or that specific action is "abusive" or not or is "consented" to or not. It's about the underlying mindset and beliefs that allow people to think that hierarchy and rules can be done "non-abusively" in the first place.

From Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away?3 By Eve Rickert:
"I believe that if you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."

"There are certainly cases where you might choose not to exercise a right. It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there.

And that’s what makes it a right."
That is the foundation of some later blog posts on whether or not hierarchy can ever be "ethical".

From Can Polyamorous Relationships Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control4 by Eve Rickert:
"Healthy relationships are ones in which we can express our needs and desires, but it’s when we feel entitled to have our partners do what we want that things go off the rails. Entitlement makes us feel like it’s okay to overrule our partners’ agency (and that of their partners). If we’re part of a socially sanctioned couple, this is especially dangerous, because we’ve got lots of societal messages feeding that sense of entitlement. And the most damaging parts of hierarchical setups tend to come about when we enshrine entitlement into our relationship agreements."

"Once the tower of intimate influence is defended, however, we see the village once again reoccupied. The village is things that a person feels entitled to control in their partner’s relationship, or rules and structures that are put in place to ensure that one person’s needs are always favoured in the case of resource conflict."
I didn't recognize that my partner was abusive because he didn't *behave* that way towards me, and I didn't *see* him behave that way towards his other partners. So when this one person came forward and said he had abused her, I, along with his other partners, all stood up and said "He can't be! He's not like that! He's never done anything like that to us! The problem must be with you!"

But the truth is that he *did* do things like that to his other partners. They just looked a little different because we were all different people so he had to use slightly different tactics. His abuse was expressed differently with everyone so it didn't look like "abuse", but they were all expressions of the same set of *beliefs*. So when his other partners succumbed to his manipulation of them, it looked like everyone was consenting, therefore it couldn't be abuse. Because it wasn't necessarily the behaviour, it was the underlying belief that permitted the behaviour. "[I]f you’ve come to a place in your relationship where someone has negotiated any one of their rights away, that relationship includes coercion, and that invalidates consent."3
"Do abuse victims “consent” to be in their relationships? On the surface, perhaps it looks that way, but that is rooted in a victim-blaming, “why doesn’t she (he) just leave?” mentality and a serious oversimplification of the psychological dynamics of abuse. Abuse relies on tearing down your partner’s sense of self and personal agency to the point where consent is really no longer valid. And it doesn’t take physical violence to make a relationship abusive."3
The thing of it all is that this pattern was visible from the beginning. It wasn't invisible at all. It was just camouflaged beneath this community insistence that "anything" that two people "consent" to is A-OK. That whole YKINMKBYKIOK (your kink is not my kink but your kink is ok) mentality that I find so profoundly dangerous. I get why we started that. It's easy for people to place our own biases and judgements on other people even when we're trying to be all liberal and inclusive and shit. Look how often the furries get thrown under the bus by other kinksters, for instance. We had to teach ourselves that we don't have to agree or approve of someone else's preferences for those preferences to still be legitimate and valid and accepted. But instead of opening the door to inclusiveness, the door swung in the other direction and is now being used to bludgeon anyone who tries to critically examine toxic or harmful behaviour. It's like the religious extremists using "freedom of religion" to justify *imposing* their religious values onto other people by granting corporations personhood status to avoid covering contraception.

When I first met my abusive ex, he was in a hierarchical relationship that enforced triad structures only (FMF with bi-women, of course). So I thought "I kinda like him, but there's no way I'm touching that with a 10-foot pole!" Over time, their structure evolved until, many years later as our friendship grew, I was told that they had worked through their issues and they could now have independent relationships without each other and those relationships were allowed to grow on their own. So I thought "Hallelujah! People can change! People can learn and grow and break out of their insecurities!" Boy, was I wrong.

See, he and his wife still had a lot of rules with each other that I found ... disconcerting. But I wasn't told the full scope of all the rules, just that they found what works for them but that they had reached a point in their lives where they could accept that their other relationships couldn't work that way. So, in enters YKINMKBYKIOK - it works for us and we're not imposing it on you, so don't question it unless you want to be seen as intolerant of other people's preferences. So I didn't inquire too much, except to insist that this structure absolutely, without a doubt, no exceptions, would not work for me. They assured me they wouldn't try to impose it, and thus reassured, I entered into a relationship with him.

In the throes of NRE, I saw all the red flags, but I ignored them. Because he wasn't doing them *to me* and the person he was doing them to *said* she was OK with it and even claimed to be her idea in some cases. But they niggled at the back of my brain, so I stored these red flags in my memory (sometimes literally - a lot of our conversations were via chat, so I have the chat logs and I'm not relying purely on my memory) and when things came to a head years later, I was deeply ashamed that I hadn't paid more attention back then. And holy shit, when I learned what some of their rules were much later I was *really* upset with myself that I didn't press the issue in the beginning.

One of the red flags was that his wife didn't allow pictures taken of herself. Not just explicit photos, but any photos. Well, very occasionally she would pose for group photos of social events. But no candids and definitely no sexy shots. At the time, I thought this was just a quirk of hers. And it was, but sort of. She's also a very dominant personality, much like me in a lot of ways. Back in the beginning, when I thought "nope, not ever gonna go there!", I thought it was because *she* was calling all the shots and I didn't want anything to do with any relationship where the wife had more power over my relationship than I did. But they inadvertently introduced me to what I now call Relationship By Hostage Crisis. This is where two people get into a relationship with each other and one of them allows their partner to remove their agency in some way because the first person wants to remove the agency of the other themself. So they basically trade their own agency in exchange for controlling the other person's agency.

Some people seem to think that this is a fair power exchange, that it's not abusive if it goes both ways. But we're not talking about a D/s agreement where someone has the power to concede something. The reason why that's different is because *that person always maintains the power to take it back*. If they don't, it's abuse, by definition. I know this gets a lot of serious edge-players up in a snit when I say this, but kink is all about fantasy and illusion. None of it is real. Sure, it's real *enough* that it triggers the reactions in our brains so that it *feels* real. But it can end at any time. Franklin ([livejournal.com profile] tacit) once knew a guy who insisted his wife was his slave in every sense of the word and he owned her in exactly the same way he owned his TV. He insisted that it was a real slave relationship right up until his wife divorced him. You'll note that she wasn't summarily hunted down by the government and lashed or hung for leaving him.  But we do see cases where women try to leave their male partners and the men punish them by stalking, harassing, raping, and killing them.  He feels entitled to control her agency - her choices - and she is punished when she makes choices he doesn't approve of.  She does not have the power to take her agency back.  This is not a D/s consensual power exchange fantasy.

Giving up your agency in order to have control over someone else in trade is not a BDSM power exchange fantasy. You may indeed have power over someone else, but you *lose power over yourself* in exchange. This is not something you can renegotiate later when it's not working for you. You have become *powerless*, and it takes a great deal of effort to wrest that power back, if you ever get it at all. As they say, two wrongs don't make a right. Sometimes you can have two bad actors in the play instead of just one.
"Our brains are optimized to seek pleasure and avoid threat. It’s most of what we do. There’s nothing wrong with trying to avoid things that we believe will hurt us. However, most people would also agree that you can’t put a gun to someone else’s head in order to avoid the things you fear, no matter how uncomfortable the consequences. Sometimes we have to face what we fear because all other options require taking actions that we consider to be wrong. Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head."1
So, the wife wanted control over her husband in some way so she allowed her husband to control her body in this way (among others). He didn't want other people looking at her body in ways he didn't approve of. They held emotional guns to each other's heads. This is not a fair power exchange. No one was empowered by this situation, they were both disempowered *even while* they held power over each other. So, no pictures of her. Except that *he* obsessively took pictures of her. Of everyone.  At all times. And I mean at *all* times. I had ample opportunity during group sex to see him actually stop the sex, reach for a camera, and take a dozen pictures, all with her glaring at him in the picture because she didn't like having those pictures of herself taken. *She* wanted to control when pictures were taken and right then was not when she wanted to have pictures taken. But it didn't matter, because *he* wanted them.

I had a conversation with her about this once. This is where I learned that the no-dirty-pictures rule wasn't her own preference. She would have wanted to have posed for something for her own enjoyment, but he wouldn't allow it. She saw nothing wrong with his prohibiting her because, as her husband, he had that right to determine what happened to her body, but he also had that right (she believed) because she gave it to him. But there was no consideration for renegotiating that rule, at least not in practice. He made disagreement with him so traumatic to everyone in the family that everyone avoided disagreement with him at much cost. He literally made it a matter of life and death when people disagreed with him. So it was easier to capitulate than try to talk him out of one of his catatonic or self-harming states, and then they got to believe that it was their "choice" to negotiate that power away.

Later on, some other things were happening regarding her relationship with her boyfriend and my partner and I were arguing over his wife's autonomy and the boyfriend's rights in his own relationship with her, and we circled around to the subject of sex work, which led to the subject of dirty pictures. He was appalled, I mean *appalled* at the idea of a partner of his either "selling her body" or of his wife having nude pictures that someone else could see. We veered into all kinds of tangents, including me demanding him to explain how "selling one's body" through sex was any different from me getting paid to dance or to perform manual labor or how sex work was any more inherently demeaning than my soul-sucking retail job at barely above minimum wage.

I also had to watch him go through a series of mental gymnastics to explain why it was OK to be dating me, who has naked pictures of myself on a public website from when I posed as a tutorial model for [livejournal.com profile] tacit's BDSM site, but not OK to have a wife who might have similar pictures. The gymnastics got even more convoluted when I disclosed to him that I had been paid to pose for a nudie calendar years before and that picture is out there, floating around somewhere that I've never even seen and certainly have no control over what happens to it. The takeaway I got from that exchange was that it actually *did* bother him, but he was unable to admit it to himself so his cognitive dissonance forced him to justify on the spot why it was somehow different to be dating someone with that kind of exposure than to be married to someone with it.

But what really stuck in my memory was his explanation of why he believed he was in the right for not allowing nude pictures of his wife on the internet. He told me the story of the bowl of M&Ms. So, let's say you have a bowl of M&Ms on your desk at work. You love your M&Ms. They're your favorite candy. And sometimes you don't mind sharing your M&Ms with your coworkers, but you have this one coworker who you hate with a passion. He's a major asshole to everyone and he definitely doesn't respect you or your M&Ms. He feels entitled to them. You don't want him to have your M&Ms because they're not *his* M&Ms, and, in fact, you hate him so much that you don't want him to have any M&Ms ever because you don't want him to have the pleasure of eating M&Ms at all because he's such an asshole that he doesn't deserve the profound bliss that is the M&M.

I couldn't believe what I was reading (this was a chat argument). I couldn't believe this was coming out of the same person who was otherwise so aligned with all my values and beliefs and philosophies! So I said "but your wife isn't a bowl of M&Ms, she's a person who you can't own and she gets to make up her own mind about what happens to her own body." He tried to handwave away the objectification inherent in his analogy and pushed the "but he's an asshole and doesn't deserve to see the glory that is her body" angle.

He tried to appeal to my sense of justice but I don't actually want people I dislike to not have good things. I might often wish bad things on them, but all the times I can think of when I did that, what I wished was for the bad thing to be relevant to why I disliked them so that they would ultimately learn compassion and empathy from the bad thing, or at least be punished in the same way they were punishing others. I honestly don't give a fuck if Racist Joe in the next cubicle gets a lot of pleasure out of his cold Budwiser while sitting in his favorite recliner watching football at the end of the work day. I don't want to steal his Budwiser just so he can't have one. I'm not bothered by the idea that someone I don't like might actually be experiencing something pleasant or enjoyable or feeling happy. But I am deeply disturbed by the idea that other people are bothered by that.

There are so many other examples, that I have been using my experiences with him as moral tales for years since it all went down and I have yet to run out of examples. Argument after argument, random side comment after pointed discussion, there are a million different ways that he expressed his underlying belief that his partners could not be trusted to make their own decisions about their bodies; that if left to our own devices we would necessarily choose things that were not in *his* best interest; that what was in *his* best interest was therefore what was in *our* best interest; that what was "best" for the group took precedence over what was "best" for the individual; and that he was absolutely entitled, as the romantic partner, to have the power to make those kinds of decisions and to ask, demand, or manipulate his partners into doing what he decided we should.

I didn't see any of this because, for most of our relationship, what I wanted for myself and our relationship and what he wanted for me and our relationship were in alignment. "It might be easy enough to say you don’t need the right to leave when, well, you don’t want to leave. But when you decide you do want the right? It’s still there." Until one day, we weren't in alignment. He had no need to try any of the gaslighting or logic-circling or even more blatantly abusive tactics like threats of self-harm because I wasn't doing anything contrary to his vision of how our relationship ought to be or how I ought to be in our relationship. Until one day, I did. And then I saw it. I saw what his victim had been crying to me about just a few weeks before. I saw the entitlement. I saw the belief that he ought to be able to dictate my actions. I saw the carrot-and-stick game he played with her - using group acceptance as the carrot to get me to fall in line and group shunning as the stick if I didn't fall in line. "I talked with everyone else, and they all agree that you are wrong. You’re hurting the whole group, don’t you care about us?" I saw everything she said he had been doing to her for the length of their relationship, finally, in one day, directed at me.

And then I saw that I had always seen it. It had always been there.
"Therefore when we harm each other because of fear, let’s recognize that it was not the fear that was the problem. We all have fear. The problem was a belief system that said, well, maybe I can put a gun to your head.

The prioritization of fear arises when we replace a relationship of mutual support and co-creation, with one of parental protection. ... A relationship that is hostage to fear is one where everything, the relationship, the mental health of the participants, the future, everything hinges on the avoidance of something. Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it."1
When we first broke up, it came as a shock to everyone. To everyone on the outside, he and I were the most compatible and stable of all his other partnerships. We were so similar in so many ways. And by the time we broke up, his relationship with the victim who came forward had gotten so tumultuous that all his other relationships were being affected, except, apparently, ours. Everything in his life seemed to be falling apart. He was so wrapped up in the drama with this one person that he had no more resources for maintaining any of his other relationships and they were all in danger of blowing up too. His last blog post prior to our breakup was lamenting the fact that his life was falling apart and I was his one port left in the storm. So no one saw it coming, because no one understood that this box containing his beliefs and fears was still there, informing the health and stability of every relationship including ours.

When I told people who had met him or who were privy to my gushings of my relationship with him during NRE, when I told them of how it ended, without exception everyone said that it sounded like I was describing two different people. It was a total Jekyll and Hyde story. His victim once said that she tried to reconcile these two people in her head. Part of what made her stay with him so long is that she kept thinking that she could get back to the nice Dr. Jekyll if she could only find the right way to behave that wouldn't let out Mr. Hyde. But her other partner pointed out to her, "He's not two different people. Your nice, sweet boyfriend is also the abuser. They're the same person."

I keep saying that patterns are important. But I also keep saying that it's the underlying beliefs that are important. People might be tempted to say "but look at all these other relationships he has! She was the outlier! The pattern is that he's a good guy and she's the problem!"  But that's not the pattern. The pattern is in his beliefs. Sure, he didn't try to manipulate me or control me ... as long as what I was already doing was something he approved of. So it may have *looked* like there was no pattern of manipulation or control because he didn't seem to try that on me. But the real pattern was that he *believed* that manipulation and control are appropriate methods of dealing with a partner whose behaviour was something he didn't approve of. "It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices."

This is why benevolent sexism is still sexism and still a problem. The behaviour, on the surface, might seem like it's not oppressive because it supposedly elevates women. It rewards them. It "privileges" them. But only as long as women toe the line. Only as long as women fall within acceptable ranges of behaviour or dress or thought. A pedestal *seems* like a place of power and enshrinement, until you realize how confining it is to stand in one spot or risk falling to your death for daring to sit down or change positions.

It's tempting to say "he's not an abuser because he didn't abuse me!" I know, I said that at one time. But it's also tempting to say "but abusers don't abuse everyone yet they're still abusers". The thing is that they actually do, we just can't see it behind the camouflage. As [livejournal.com profile] tacit, and one of my metafores, are fond of saying, it’s not a problem … until it is. "Every relationship that forms on top of that avoidance, forms under the premise that the fear is more important than anything else. But just because you’ve agreed to never open the box, doesn’t mean the box isn’t there, informing the health and stability of every relationship that touches it." A racist who keeps his mouth shut when a black customer walks into his store is still a racist towards that customer. He's not a racist because he does racist things. He's a racist because he holds racist beliefs. And he holds those beliefs all the time, at everyone. A person who believes that they are entitled to control other people’s bodies, thoughts, and choices still believes those things even when they don't choose to exercise that entitlement, for whatever reason they choose not to in that moment. And those beliefs leave signs. It's not about whether or not he tries to manipulate a partner who is already doing what he wants her to do. It's about whether he *believes* he is right to manipulate her should she ever not want to do what he wants her to do. And that kind of thinking leaves footprints, if we only learn how to identify them.

The reason why this is important is because it is too easy to dismiss abuse when it doesn't look like how we think abuse ought to look. It's also too easy to accuse people of abuse when they are not, in fact, abusing anyone.

I wrote a paragraph in a recent post where I distinguished between "selfish" and "self-interest". That paragraph got quoted, and some people took exception to that distinction because abusers will just turn around and call what they're doing "self-interest" to justify their actions. What these detractors didn't seem to get was that this was my whole point.

What worked on my partner's victim was the accusation that she was being "selfish". That it was *she*, not he, who was the abusive monster. Her story is remarkably similar to the same one I linked to and quoted above. That's why I keep sharing Fett's writing - it really hits home with how similar it is to everything we (mostly she) went through. It all started unraveling for me when she called me crying, desperate that she had harmed him in some way, and how could she fix it? When she told me what she was afraid she had done, I was horrified that she could possibly think that she had done anything wrong at all. But how could she be such a monster? she wondered. How could she treat him so heinously? Are you fucking serious? I asked her. This had nothing to do with her at all. This was all about him.
"If you are being abused, there is a very high chance that you will be accused of being abusive or of otherwise causing the abuse. That’s because this accusation is devastatingly effective at shutting you down and obtaining control in a dispute. However, I also believe this accusation is often sincere. People often engage in abusive behaviors because they feel deeply powerless and that powerlessness hurts. But not everything that hurts in a relationship is abuse, and not everything that hurts your partner is your responsibility. It’s important to be able to distinguish abuse from other things that may happen in relationships that are hurtful, or may even be toxic or unhealthy, but are not fundamentally about entitlement and control."1
There are all kinds of things that are problematic to varying degrees. But they are not all about entitlement and control. And this is *very* important to recognize. And they should never be conflated. That harms actual victims of entitlement and control. It's not always just the abuser accusing his victim of being abusive. I see it in communities as well. Now that we're finally talking about abuse in my various subcultures, a lot of terms are getting bandied about - abuse, harassment, consent, violation, predator, narcissism, borderline personality disorder ... just to name a few. Not all of these terms are being applied where they should. When things that aren't abuse get mislabeled as abuse or "rounded up" to abuse, it makes it much harder for actual abuse victims to find proper support. When things that are indeed problematic but not "abusive" get labeled as "abusive" instead of their real problem, then we can't address the problem in ways that are effective for solving the problem.

And when people live in fear that any possible misstep might get them cast out of communities under accusations of "abuser", especially if those people are actually victims who have been told by their abusers that they are the abuser themselves, it makes it way more difficult for anyone to seek help or to seek correction for things that might actually be correctable (or not even offensive at all).

I think we're on the right track now that we're sensitive to abuse and harassment and control in our communities. But I think we're also in danger of slipping off the track too easily. We're not quite at the destination yet and we still have further to travel. One of the dangers is in stopping too soon. Now we know all these words, and now we have started supporting victims and accusers in order to break the previous chilling hold on victims from finding the support they needed when they come forward. But we still don't quite have our finger on the pulse of the problem yet.

Patterns are important, but it's the underlying beliefs that those patterns reveal that are the real key. Those underlying beliefs are what enable abuse and harassment and control and oppression and all the other bad things we're finally starting to look at and combat. Those beliefs set up the foundations that allow abuse and control and manipulation to happen. But not all bad things are about entitlement and control. It's the beliefs that make abusers so resistant to rehabilitation, so it's the beliefs we need to confront. If we don't confront the beliefs but instead attack the behavioural patterns, abusers will simply change their behavioural patterns to continue avoiding detection. It's the beliefs that need to change, and the behaviour changes will follow naturally as a consequence.

At the same time, if those beliefs aren't present, then not only is the attack the wrong way to approach the situation, the behaviour itself also has different chances of correction. It's much more likely to correct someone's behaviour if the behaviour doesn't stem from a deep belief that their behaviour was, in fact, already correct. I’m repeatedly told by those with social anxiety and other social awkward issues that we need to stop excusing bad social behaviour by labeling it some mental illness because people who aren’t predators but legitimately socially awkward often feel horrified when it is brought to their attention that they have done something wrong and they want to learn how to do better. That’s because they don’t have an underlying belief that they were right, they were simply unaware, and they don’t want to do these wrong things. These issues are correctable, but not if we ostracize everyone who does something wrong without first finding out if it was a social awkwardness / anxiety thing or if it was a boundary-pushing predator masquerading as socially awkward thing. One of them believes they didn’t do anything wrong and the other doesn’t. One of them can have their behaviour corrected with guidance and the other can’t because they don’t believe their behaviour was wrong.

How we address the problem needs to be changed if the belief underlying it isn't about entitlement and control, if we want our efforts to be effective. And, as my partner's poor victim learned the hard way, if there are no underlying beliefs about entitlement and control, then there's a good chance that she wasn't doing the abuse she was accused of in the first place. She, like Fett, wracked her brain trying to figure out how to stop this "abuse" she was doing to him, and that only made things worse for her. Fett describes many times about the extreme self-loathing and self-hatred they felt because they believed themself to be an abuser when they weren’t. Because they weren’t actually abusing anyone, the intense searching for the root of non-existent abuse only deepened the wound and left them more and more vulnerable to their abuser’s manipulation.

As Fett says, being victimized by your control is not the same as being victimized by my resistence to your control. His victim wasn't abusing him because, no matter how much he felt hurt, she wasn't the one doing any hurting of him. She did not have any underlying beliefs that she was entitled to control him. In fact, all of his hurt stemmed from her very strong belief that no one was entitled to control anyone else. She was resisting his control and that made him feel hurt. If your hand hurts after slapping someone who raised their arm to block the slap, that person didn't hurt you; you hurt yourself by slapping them.

But *his* underlying beliefs of entitlement were always there, and were always visible. When he first accused her of abusing him, almost everyone who knew her were shocked and suspicious. What do you mean she abused him? She had never exhibited that kind of behaviour before! They had relationships with her that weren't abusive at all! When she later accused him of the same, people said the same thing about him.

But she did not have those underlying beliefs, and her supporters were not wrong to question the accusation. It *was* contrary to everything about her. And because it was so contrary to her very nature, it was a sign that she was actually a victim of abuse herself. When his supporters questioned her accusation of him, well, I don't want to go so far as to say it was "wrong" to question, because serious accusations deserve to be treated seriously, which includes inquiry into the situation. But their dismissal of her accusation in favor of their personal experience with him *was* misplaced because they were looking at the wrong thing - his actions and feelings vs. his beliefs.

When her supporters questioned his accusation of her, they investigated her beliefs. In light of what she believed about entitlement and control, the accusation was patently absurd. The absurdity of the accusation is what led to the situation finally being identified accurately - that he was gaslighting her and emotionally abusing her. He accused her of abuse. Some people who knew her (not me, to my great shame), questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about her. She had never done anything like that to them. But, more than that, her *beliefs* were so contrary to the accusation, that her supporters were able to start piecing things together for her when she was so mired in self-doubt and illusion that she couldn't do it herself. So they started adding things up and told her "you are not this person he says you are. He is gaslighting you."

She finally broke free and accused him of abusing her. Some people who knew him questioned that accusation. It didn't fit what they knew about him. He had never done anything like that to them. But that's where they stopped. They did not question his *beliefs*. If they had, like I eventually did, they would have discovered that his beliefs are not actually contrary to the accusations at all. And they would have discovered, like I eventually did, that signs of his beliefs had been visible from the beginning. So no one else started adding things up, and to this day people believe that she abused him and that I also abused him because I withdrew my support and then resisted his attempt to control me when I withdrew that support. Because they looked at actions and feelings and not beliefs.

Those beliefs were visible, and showed a pattern, if you knew how to look for them. Without those beliefs, she could not have abused him. Hurt him, sure, because we all hurt people, especially when we are in pain ourselves and especially because the people who are the most vulnerable with us are also the most susceptible to being hurt by us precisely because of that vulnerability. But she *could not* have attempted to control or manipulate him because she *does not* hold any beliefs that she is entitled to his thoughts, his body, his choices. Everything she ever did in that relationship was an attempt to escape his control, not exercise it. But her attempts to escape that control were *felt* by him as "harm". And misunderstood by everyone else as "selfishness". And I, of all people close to that dynamic, should have been able to see the difference, since that is essentially my very existence within the context of romantic relationships - constantly attempting to escape control and being labeled "selfish" for the attempts.

The problem is that this subject is so complex and so nuanced that I don't think I'll ever be done writing about it. And so this post now becomes a mini-novel. All to explain that patterns are easy to disguise or misinterpret if we only look at actions and not at underlying beliefs. When we look at patterns of *beliefs*, things appear very different. Someone who seems totally affable becomes a manipulative monster (everyone's favorite TV dad, for instance). Someone who is accused of being that monster turns out to be a victim themself. And within communities concerned with social justice, it's hard to see sometimes because those monsters learn to co-opt the language of social justice. But the beliefs are still there, and they show up, if you know how to look for them. So when you go looking for them and they don't show up, it's time to wonder just who is the attacker and who is being attacked and maybe all is not as it seems.

When a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and they didn’t perform those actions on me!", maybe we can question the validity of the group defense. But when a bunch of people all stand up and say "I looked, and those beliefs just aren't present", maybe we ought to question the validity of the *accusation*, like when my abusive ex accused his victim of being abusive for daring to resist his control of her. She (and later, I) was ostracized from her community and her support group because everyone automatically believed the "victim", meaning he called dibs on the label first and everyone jumped to his side by default, without critically examining whether his claims were even plausible, given the beliefs of the people involved. Her actions were deemed "abusive" simply because he felt hurt by them, without looking to see if there were any elements of entitlement or control present and, if so, which direction they flowed.

But those who cared enough to look beneath the surface finally saw the truth. Those who took the time to look for patterns of *belief*, not actions or not simply whether someone felt "hurt", when we saw the patterns of belief, we knew that she could not have been abusive, even if she might also have caused harm. And my refusal to see this pattern when it was first shown to me, that led to consequences of my own. Consequences that could have been avoided, and possibly even resulted in better protection for his victim sooner, had I learned to look for belief patterns and had I learned to recognize that internalized paradigm of ownership rather than quibbling over whether or not specific actions "counted" as "abusive".

Maybe, had I done that instead, I wouldn't today be wracked with guilt and self-doubt, all these years later. Maybe his victim would have escaped sooner and healed faster had I not backed the wrong horse and had I not challenged everyone else who said "but she can't be an abuser because our experience of her is different!"  Maybe she wouldn't have been so easy to isolate had I listened to *her* other supporters instead of arguing that they just didn't see how much drama the family had only when she was brought into the fold. Instead of questioning their support of her on the basis that they were too close to her to be "objective" and not close enough to the situation to see all the hurt feels he had. Maybe if I had acknowledged that, as people who knew her so well for so long, they might actually have had some insight into her belief structure and been exactly the right people to know if she had the beliefs necessary for her to abuse him. Maybe, if I had known that it was the beliefs that were important, not actions that happened behind closed doors that can be interpreted in many ways or rationalized and not simply “feeling” hurt by someone, things could have been different and we both could have been spared at least some of the damage that dating an abuser left us with. Maybe, had I understood all this back then, I wouldn't today feel like that house with broken windows**.

This is not the only time I made this mistake, either, although I was closer to this situation than to others. There was another time someone cried "abuse", and I believed them automatically because I was told I should, and only many months later did I learn that he was, in fact, an abuser. He was just the one who cried foul first. But, again, it took a confrontation with him personally where his beliefs that it was acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality became visible for me to see the pattern. Two people accused each other of abuse, and I took this side because I now "knew", thanks to my experiences dating an abuser, that abusers often think of themselves as victims. So, obviously, his abuser was just doing that, right? Except that later, he tried to gaslight me too. After telling him multiple times my feelings on something, he continued to insist that I did not feel those things, and to insist on his own narrative of what I felt. Now his "abuser’s" accusations of gaslighting sounded more plausible. He *believed* that he was entitled to control another person’s reality, and patterns of that belief were visible, if you know what to look for. That doesn’t let the other person off the hook for whatever wrongs they committed in this very messy situation. But it does mean that I was wrong to "believe the victim" without treating all the accusations flying around seriously and critically examining the situation even though I thought I did at the time. My bias towards "believe the victim" and my personal experience with abuse telling me that I should now know what abuse "looks like" fogged the matter and I did not examine the situation critically enough, or with enough information (knowing the difference between beliefs vs. behaviours or feelings) to be able to examine it properly.

So I yell on the internet, hoping people can learn very expensive lessons without paying the high price I paid to learn it first. After I believed the wrong "victim" more than once, I'm not positive that "believe the victim" is the right response. *Support* the victim might be a better response, because support allows for the ability to examine the situation and then provide the *right type* of support based on that examination. Had I "supported" all the actors in that messy double-accusation drama instead of "believed" just one of them, I might have been able to provide better support for the actual victims in the story, given that I had some community authority and responsibility in the matter. Had I "supported" my then-boyfriend instead of "believed" him, I might have discovered the truth sooner and been able to support him by holding him accountable instead of inadvertently contributing to the gaslighting of his real victim. Had I "supported" him instead, I might have been able to hear the chorus of "she couldn't have done that because we know her!" and looked into it more clearly instead of dismissing it out of hand, and I might have then learned about this beliefs vs. actions/feelings problem.

And maybe we might both have escaped without breaking first.



* I will not be hosting any debate in my comments about the definition of hierarchy. That’s why I linked to the definition I’m using here. If your definition differs, then you’re not doing what I am calling "hierarchy" and I don’t care. I absolutely refuse to hold space for this endless circular argument because it has managed to keep the entire community derailed for over 20 years. I’m insisting on moving on. Any comments that include anything even remotely resembling "but sometimes hierarchy is…" or "but I don’t do that…" or "but my kids really do take priority!" will be summarily deleted regardless of what other content the comment may have. If you’re feeling the desire to make a comment like that, go read the link I provided for the definition of hierarchy, and then parts 1 and 2 of Can Poly Hierarchies Be Ethical first. If you still feel the desire to make those comments, re-read all three posts. Continue re-reading until you no longer feel the need to make those rebuttals.

** This is in reference to an essay that might not be available. The essay is an analogy to living in a house with windows that aren’t perfect but that do the job. They’re good enough and the house is sound. Then one day, someone comes along and breaks the windows. And you spend a long time ignoring the broken windows, and then working around the broken windows, and then finally learning how to fix the broken windows. One at a time, you repair them. They’re not all repaired yet and some rooms are still unusable because of the broken windows, but the house is getting fixed, the new windows look great, and you learned a new skill. But the windows were fine to begin with. You didn’t need to learn this skill or replace the windows until someone came along and broke them. So you’ve had to spend all these years learning how to fix windows that shouldn’t have had to be fixed in the first place, and all these years ahead of you continuing to fix each window, when you could have been using that time to learn a different skill, to get better at something new, to grow or improve. Instead, you spend all this time just trying to move backwards to get back to a place you were before because you can’t move forward until you get there first. The breaking of the windows was a huge step backwards and now you’re playing catchup. And it all feels unnecessary because the windows were fine to begin with.



1. Abuse In Poly Relationships by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

2. 10 Things I Wish I’d Known About Gaslighting by Shea Emma Fett - https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/10-things-i-wish-i-d-known-about-gaslighting-22234cb5e407

3. Relationship Rights: Can You Negotiate Them Away by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2015/01/relationship-rights-can-negotiate-away

4. Can Polyamorous Hierarchies Be Ethical? Part 2: Influence and Control by Eve Rickert - www.morethantwo.com/blog/2016/06/can-polyamorous-hierarchies-ethical-part-2-influence-control
joreth: (Misty in Box)
www.theestablishment.co/2015/11/23/tiny-home-houses-poverty-appropriation/

I recently had to block someone because they posted about that common of white privilege memes - anyone can travel if you just commit to it and don't hold out for 5-star hotels! I didn't block them just because they made that post. I had to block them because I and someone else tried to explain the privilege inherent in the position in the comments, and *their friends* flooded the comments with more of the same "you just don't want to travel badly enough because if you wanted it, it could be done" and "you're just afraid". I had to block that person just to stop getting notifications about their privileged friends continuing to gaslight me and tell me what I "really want" or what I'm "really afraid of".

And yes, I *am* afraid to lose what little safety net I have managed to hold onto while the rest slips rapidly through my fingers, by living in the same country that recognizes me as a citizen and where my parents can send me emergency cash overnight. When your only means of survival requires your government to give you assistance and your retired parents to send their hard-earned (and dwindling) retirement funds on bailing you out every so often, the idea of leaving the country and not being able to access that meager safety net because you don't have any cash saved up is terrifying (assuming that "selling everything you own" even adds up to the amount necessary to get a passport and plane ticket in the first place, which my stuff doesn't). And yes, some of my friends are afraid to travel in countries where they can't easily get their insulin because they are so poor that their only travel option is that couch-surfing, get a dishwashing job when you get there option which doesn't exactly provide them with the ability to stock up on insulin in a foreign country. Travel, no matter how cheaply you spin it, is a luxury when it's a choice.

As I told those arrogant people in the comments, living hand-to-mouth and washing dishes and sleeping on someone's couch is not something that a person aspires TO when it is something they are currently trying to escape FROM. I don't care how magnificent the sunset looks over a pyramid, it doesn't mean shit when the only way to see it is to be worse off than I am at home and then, because of that, be too poor to get back home. It's not like the sun doesn't set here too, y'know.

That's actually how I ended up stuck in FL. I spent all my money, traveled as cheaply as possible, even worked odd jobs on the way, made it out here with nothing saved up (because of unexpected emergency travel expenses, I spent all the savings I was supposed to live on once here just to finish getting here) and no job waiting for me and no place to live. And the effort it takes just to survive out here means I have been unable to get back to even my starting point, so I can't afford to leave what was supposed to be a temporary trip. Sure, it takes less money to live in other places so you could conceivably survive somewhat comfortably by traveling cheaply somewhere else. But because it takes less money to live there, you also earn less money while you're there. If you spend all your money getting somewhere, there's no guarantee that you'll make enough money once there to get back. I've been stuck here for 16 goddamn years because I can't afford to get back home, thanks to it being cheaper to live here than back home.

I know EXACTLY what it takes to give up "everything" and "just do it", and I know how hard it is to recover from that and I know what happens when you "give up everything" and never recoup it so you can't ever go back at the end of the adventure. I know what happens after you ride off into that sunset. Life happens and life is a bitch.

"It’s likely, from where I sit, that this back-to-nature and boxed-up simplicity is not being marketed to people like me, who come from simplicity and heightened knowledge of poverty, but to people who have not wanted for creature comforts. For them to try on, glamorize, identify with."

"The drop-offs were happening at a white anarchist collective filled with people who were choosing not to participate in the system of capitalism.

And I couldn’t help but think: that must be nice. To have that choice. "

"the same people of color who may go on welfare out of necessity, out of the systemic oppression that makes it difficult for them to have the same access to upward mobility, are considered socially uncouth and lazy, while white anarchists (in this context) are praised for their radically subversive actions."

"But I do think it’s time to start having conversations about how alternative means aren’t a choice for those who come from poverty. We must acknowledge what it means to make space for people who actually need free food or things out of dumpsters, "

The only people flocking towards all these "live simply" hipster solutions are people who didn't come from a life where "live simply" wasn't a choice. It's easy to give up your extra "things" or space when your background tells you that you can always replace it again in the future. It's easy to look on a life of crawling through dumpsters and living on couches when you had your full vaccination schedule and medical benefits and a history of more or less healthy diet to make you hardy enough to withstand any medical complications that comes from accidental exposure or a poorer diet than normal or a 6-week *choice* of poor sleep on a couch that you can give up and come back to your nice bed when you're done.

It's easy to think all that stuff sounds like "fun" or even "responsible" when you haven't lost someone you know to exposure and malnutrition that could have been prevented had they ever had the "choice" to give it up when they were tired of playacting at being poor.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have, on occasion, offered to host "guest posts" for people I know who wanted to write something they felt was important but didn't feel like their own platform was the appropriate place for it, for whatever reason. I'm not really known as a blogger with a large audience, and LiveJournal isn't really a popular blogging platform these days, but I figure with my history of topics I can probably afford to host certain posts when others can't or would rather not.

So, today I'm providing a platform for Jess (Burde) Mahler over at Polyamory On Purpose:



Had a conversation today that pulled into focus some thoughts on “boundaries” “control” and, most importantly, “choice.”

I’ve said in other contexts that every day we choose to be in our relationships. I didn’t decide to be with Michael one day seven years ago and that was it. Every day we have been together, I have decided to be in a relationship with him and to make our relationship healthy(er).

In the same way, every (social) relationship you are in is one you choose to be in. Work, military and political relationships can be forced on us. Who we love, befriend, count as family, and bump bits with cannot. Every day we choose to be in those relationships.

Usually, we aren’t aware of these choices. If you choose to be in a relationship with Wanda, you aren’t going to wake up every day and say “Do I want to be in a relationship with Wanda today?” You default to the established choice. Somewhere in your subconscious a decision tree runs “I decided to be in a relationship with Wanda yesterday and nothing has changed (or things have changed for the better) so I’m still in a relationship with her today.” We only become aware of this choice when things go wrong. "Wow, I can't believe Wanda did that. Maybe this relationship isn't the best idea. No, I'm going to stick it out, we can make it work!" (Or "...Yeah, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I think it's time to leave this relationship.)

People always have the right NOT to be in a relationship. At any day, at any moment, we can choose to end an existing relationship. Starting a relationship takes agreement, ending a relationship does not. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

Remember that.

Okay, so this conversation I had today, someone was bothered by the distinction between controlling and consideration for a partner’s feelings. The specific phrases were “My bf/gf won’t let me….” and “My bf/gf would be hurt if I did ____, so I won’t.” The person I was talking with basically saw the second phrase as emotional manipulation. Emotional manipulation is a way of exerting control on someone and is a form of abuse.

I, on the other hand, saw the second phrase as respect for a partner’s boundaries. My partner will be hurt if I do this, I don’t want to hurt my partner, I won’t do this.

The difference, the critical difference, (and why I still think I’m right ;) ) is choice.

Let’s break those two phrases down a bit.

“My bf/gf won’t let me...” In this statement, you do not have a choice in your actions. Your partner has made the choice for you. This is controlling. It would not surprise me to learn that this relationship is abusive. (Controlling relationships are not always abusive—you can choose to give control to your partner, a la power exchange relationships, but controlling relationships where the control is coercive are always abusive.)

“My bf/gf would be hurt if I did...” In this statement, you have a choice. You may choose to do this thing. You may choose not to do this thing. All your partner has done is give you information. In this case, the information that if you do this thing, they will be hurt. In consent, giving additional information is called making sure your partner is fully informed. Same applies here.

Now, if you choose to do the thing that hurts your partner, and your partner punishes you for it, that is abuse. Your partner is trying to control your choices. The next time you think about doing something that would hurt them, they want you to choose what they pick for you to choose. Not what you would choose for yourself.

Telling a partner what to do: controlling.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences: informative and important for fully informed decisions.

Telling a partner your feelings and preferences and punishing them if they don’t do what you want: controlling and (outside of consensual power exchange relationship) abusive.

With me so far? Cause the next step is a humdinger.

“If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

I’ve been told in the past that this kind of statement is automatically coercive because it is an ultimatum. But if I fill in the blank this way:

“if you hit me I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

Suddenly the same people who were saying it is controlling or coercive language agree that you are making a perfectly reasonable statement.

Let’s drop something else in the blank:

“If you talk with your ex I will not be able to be in a relationship with you.”

All of a sudden, those same people will once again see it as controlling or coercive. But it’s the same language, the only thing that has changed is what your partner is talking about.

So the idea really seems to be “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling.”

And this is where we come back to where we started. No one can require you to be in a relationship with them. I can break up with you tomorrow because you have a hangnail. I can break up with you because your voice is squeaky. I can break up with you for no reason at all. And you can do the same, in all of your relationships.

It’s not asking your partner to do or not to certain things to be in a relationship that is controlling—they are asking you. The idea that “asking your partner to do or not do certain things in order to be in a relationship with you is controlling” This is controlling and coercive because it implies “you can’t break up with someone because they do something you don’t like.” Fuck no, I can break up with who I want, when I want, where I want. And so can you. And so can your partner. And their partner. Ad the nauseum.

But-but-but-

I can hear the objections. “Saying ‘if you do this I can’t be in a relationship with you’ isn’t asking! It’s telling them what to do if they want to be in a relationship with you!”

big sigh

Rather than argue, which I so could, I accept this framing. And?

Seriously, so what? I have the right to lay out requirements for the relationships I am in. This goes back to (again) No one can require you to be in a relationship with them.

If I want to, I can say that no one can be in a relationship with me unless they shit gold and fart rainbows, while dancing the rumba. That is my right. Deal with it. (It’s also your right. And your partner’s. And their partner’s. Ad the nauseum.) If I say that, chances are I’m not going to find anyone to be in a relationship with. That’s my choice. If I relax my standards to only people who shit and fart while dancing the rumba, I might actually find someone to be in a relationship with. But if I don’t want to relax my standards, I don’t have to. (also, ewwwww.)

So let’s go back to “If you do ____ I will not be able to be in a relationship wit you.” If it’s not controlling, and it’s not asking, what is it?

It’s laying out a decision tree.

It is saying “You have choices. You can choose to do this. You can choose to not do this. Those are your choices. After you make your choice, I get to make a choice. I get to choose (again, just like I do every day) whether or not to be in a relationship with you. If you do this, I will probably choose not to be in a relationship with you. If you choose not to do this, I will probably choose to continue being in a relationship with you.”

In this can, your partner is not taking away your choices. They are not controlling or coercing you. They are clearly stating “These are your available choices. These are the choices I will make depending on what you choose.”

This, like “My bf/gf will hurt if I do ...” is providing information. It is providing information that you need to make an informed decision. You can choose to do this, knowing it will probably end your relationship. You can choose to do this and coerce your partner into continuing to be with you (abuse) or you can choose to not do this because being with your partner is more important than doing this. These are your choices. These have always been your choices. The only difference is, they have now been stated clearly, so you understand them.

“But not letting me talk with my ex is coercive!” Yup. And if your partner said “you aren’t allowed to talk with your ex,” that would be controlling and wrong. (Again, assuming not a power exchange relationship.) However, your partner is allowed to say “I will leave this relationship if you talk with your ex.” Why? Because your partner can leave this relationship at any time. Because you cannot require your partner to be in this relationship. All you can do is choose to be in this relationship with them and make the right choices for you.

What if something your partner wants is harmful to you?

Well, then we have an incompatibility. One of the incompatibilities that gets talked about a lot is children. I want children. You don’t want children. We are incompatible. We have two choices. One of us can give up what we want to keep the relationship together, or one (or both) of us can choose to leave the relationship. Some incompatibilities can be worked around. “I am a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat meat.” “I’m not a vegan, I need to be in a relationship where I don’t need to eat tofu.” “Okay, how about we each cook our own meals, and we can make sure our families are on board with us bringing some vegan/non-vegan chow for the holidays.”

Now, someone saying they can’t be in a relationship with me if I talk with my ex would be a major incompatibility for me. I couldn’t give up talking with my ex even if I wanted to (we have kids together). So what would I do? I would not be in a relationship with this person.

What if I’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while and they say they can’t continue the relationship if I talk with my ex?

We go back to that decision tree. Being able to talk with whoever I want is a major deal for me. So I would reluctantly decide “I love you, but if you need me to not talk to people in order for our relationship to continue, I’m afraid I can’t do that. If you need to leave our relationship, I understand.”

Maybe they leave the relationship. Maybe we talk about it and they realize it was never about my ex, it was about their insecurity. Or maybe they tell me that every time I talk with my ex I’ve been picking a fight with my partner and didn’t realize it. (in which case, they kinda could have phrased their boundary better, but hey we’re all human). Maybe if there is an underlying cause of their boundary that isn’t directly about talking with my ex, we can find a compromise. Or maybe not. Maybe this is just an incompatibility that can’t be worked through. Or they aren’t willing to work through it. And they go their way.

And none of this is controlling. Or coercive. It’s just two people making the best of a hard situation and doing what is right for us.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
One of my pet peeves is when people straighten something and then laugh and say "OMG I'm so OCD!"  No, you're not.  OCD is not about liking things tidy.  Yes, some people with OCD do express it in ways that include straightening things like crooked pictures or their table settings, but that's not what OCD is.  Look at the letters - OCD is about having intrusive thoughts that you obsess over, and then having compulsive behaviour that you literally cannot stop yourself from doing no matter what.  What makes it OCD is that last letter - D for Disorder.
A psychological disorder is a deviant, distressful, and dysfunctional pattern of thoughts, feelings, or behaviours that interferes with the ability to function in a healthy way.
Let me repeat that:  distressful; dysfunctional; interferes with.

When I was a child, we used to laugh at and tease my dad because he couldn't leave the house without checking that the stove was off and then asking all of us if we checked to make sure the stove was off.  Then, as he drove away from the house, he had to have everyone verify for him that the garage door was closed.  If he couldn't get verification of these things, he would sometimes even drive all the way back to make sure.  We all treated it like some kind of quirk, something worth making fun of.  Dad seemed to take our teasing in good humor, but that may be a survival trait he picked up from his own family growing up.  His family is ruthless about teasing each other.  As much as I loved hanging out with my fun-loving uncles, growing up for me was also torturous because I couldn't escape the harsh insults and criticisms from people who seemed to have a magical laser-like ability to find exactly those insults that would hurt me the most.  So when my sister and mother and I would roll our eyes and say "geez, Dad!" or "there he goes again!", it was probably pretty mild by comparison and something he was able to laugh about himself.

In college, I took my first broadcast class with a teacher who had OCD bad enough that he was, at one time, institutionalized for it.  On the first day of class, he showed us a video he had made called The Touching Tree.  He showed us this video for 2 reasons:  1) it was an example of the kinds of things he would be teaching in his course - composition, lighting, camera movements, editing, etc. and 2) it explained what having him for a teacher all semester would be like.  Watching this video I finally put a label to my father - OCD.  I had no idea that his silly quirk about the stove or the garage door or needing to check all the windows at night or not being able to sleep without a fan running or needing to have a bowl of ice cream before he could sleep or of microwaving his food even if it came right off the stove were all symptoms of a mild form of OCD.  I also had no idea that some of the intrusive thoughts and odd behaviours that I had were also OCD.

Many years after identifying that I probably had some form of OCD, I discovered another thing that explained why my OCD isn't quite the same as either my dad's or my former teacher's versions and not in ways that were accommodated for in the natural variance of expression of the disorder - I discovered that anorexia actually could *cause* OCD.  My own condition wasn't isolated as an anxiety disorder on its own, but a *symptom* of some other disorder!  So there are some specific things about me that don't *quite* line up with classic OCD.  But there are lots of things that do.

For instance, one of the expressions of OCD is getting stuck in a counting loop.  Right now, go ahead and count to yourself from 1 to 10.  If you don't have OCD, you probably just counted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.  If you do have OCD, there's a good chance that your counting sounded more like this:  1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5...  Imagine if you had a simple task like counting inventory.  Now imagine reaching a particular number, and then thinking to yourself "wait a minute, did I skip a number?  I might have skipped one.  I did skip a number.  I better start over to make sure I didn't skip a number," and having that thought intrude repeatedly while you are trying to count so that you never finish counting.  Imagine not being able to silence that voice and not being able to stop yourself from starting over, even though you KNOW that you didn't skip a number and that this is holding you up from your job.

My version of that is songs.  In fact, while writing that paragraph about counting, in my head I now have the counting song from Sesame Street stuck in my head, but only the chorus.  I constantly have a song playing in my head.  Most people are familiar with earworms.  But what if you have never in your entire life NOT had a song stuck in your head?  And what if it's not the whole song, but one verse stuck on repeat, like a scratched record, and it's playing for hours, sometimes days?  As the song lyric is playing in my head, I'm having parallel thoughts that go like this:  "did I sing that too fast?  Thoughts travel faster than verbal sounds, I might have played that part too fast.  Yep, the tempo is too fast, if I try to sing it out loud, I'm singing faster than the song in my head.  I need to start over.  Did I faithfully recreate the entire song with all the instruments and harmonies or did I just play the lead vocals?  I'm sure I forgot the guitar in there.  I better start over.  Oops, I'm going too fast again, I better start over..."  This is why I'm always wearing headphones, or at least why I try to always have them with me.  I can drown out this broken record player with other music (and it has to be some other song, not the same song).

Sometimes, it's not a song lyric, but a spoken sentence.  If you ever watch a movie with me or listen to a podcast with me, watch my hands.  I will often tap out the rhythm of the last sentence I just heard and I'll tap it out over and over again until some other sentence or phrase catches my attention.  Sometimes I'll mouth the sentence myself just after they did, and I might silently whisper it several times.  This is an outward expression of the same loop in my head and that sentence or phrase will be repeating long after I've managed to still the tapping or whispering.

OCD is expressed in a lot of different ways, so even though it's popular to think of it as neatening up things or washing hands, that's only scratching the surface of ways that someone can have disruptive, intrusive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.  Something that I didn't know until I talked with my teacher that first night of class is that people think that germaphobes are neat freaks but sometimes they are incredibly dirty.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but think about it - if you are *afraid* of germs, you might be too afraid to actually clean a surface where you think the germs are living.  That might get you too close to the germs.  So someone with the germaphobic expression of OCD might actually live in filth and squalor because they are too afraid of germs to clean their house.

So, you see, OCD doesn't mean simply that you like things in order.  It doesn't just mean that you like even numbers.  It doesn't only mean that you straighten crooked picture frames or place your books and DVDs all in order.  Does the thought of those things being out of order intrude on your ability to do anything else?  Are you helpless to move onto the next task until the straightening is done?  Do you repeatedly go back and check to make sure you really did straighten it correctly?  Do you know that you're acting irrationally and do you feel a sense of self-loathing that you can't control this straightening behaviour?  Then you might actually have OCD.  But just liking things straight and orderly, even if it will "bug you until you fix it" is not OCD.

My OCD is very light because my anorexia is very light.  I've only had it get out of control twice in my life and both were under extreme duress (which is actually kinda the definition of anorexia - when I feel that my life is out of my control, I seize control over the one thing I know I can control, my diet).  Most of the time, my OCD interferes with my life but in a manageable sort of way.  I'm fortunate, I have found some tricks that work just well enough that people think I'm merely quirky, like my dad, instead of actually making it hard to hold down a job or maintain social ties.  But those intrusive thoughts are still there, always running in the background.  It's a constant struggle to drown them out or channel them into helpful ways.  The compulsive behaviour is always there, interfering with my daily life.  It's a constant struggle to contain them to unnoticeable blocks of time or movements too small to notice.  If your interest in straight lines isn't something you fight with in order to be productive and prevent people from thinking you're weird, then it's probably not OCD, you just like things straight, which a lot of people do.

If you take away only one thing from this, take this:  OCD and other anxiety disorders are not about willpower or preferences.  This is not something that you can just stop if you try hard enough.  By definition, a compulsion is something that you cannot stop, at least not without help.  I didn't eat for a year and I used to do 500 crunches every night before bed, so trust me when I say that I have plenty of willpower.  And yet, I can't stop doing certain other things.  That's because these things don't fall under the category of "willpower".  Willpower doesn't touch these things.  And logicking or rationalizing them doesn't make them go away either.  Most people with OCD are very well aware that they are doing fucked up shit.  We are aware that it's not rational, that our brains are lying to us, and that other people don't do these things.  That's part of the problem - we know the truth but we can't stop anyway.  IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH WILLPOWER.  I can't stress that enough.  This is not something that a person can just change if you explain how ridiculous they're being.  This is not a character flaw.  This is not a sign of weakness or laziness or lack of trying.  This is a mis-wiring of the brain that mere "willpower" or "strong character" can even touch let alone fix, anymore than having trouble walking on a broken ankle is about "willpower" or having a "strong character".  It's fucking broken, we know it's broken, and it will take outside intervention to correct it and even then it may never be as good as an ankle that was never broken.

Here are some videos that explain OCD.  If you have ever straightened something up and then said to the person next to you "oh, it's just my OCD", then you need to watch these, at least the shorter ones.  And if you only watch one, watch the first one called OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #29.  I'll include near the end the trailer for the video that my old broadcast teacher made, because the whole video is about 40 minutes long but if you have the time to watch the whole thing, I recommend it.  I'll post the whole video just after the trailer.



OCD & Anxiety Disorders: Crash Course Phsychology #29:





Debunking The Myths About OCD (TED-ed):





This Is What It's Like To Be In My Head For 3 Minutes:





A video about OCD:





Preview Of The Touching Tree by James Callner:





The Touching Tree (the full movie) by James Callner:


This movie was my introduction to OCD and it's how I learned that my dad likely has it because I recognized him in the main character.  The teacher in this film is actually *my* first film teacher.  And I don't mean that my teacher was like the film teacher, I mean that the actor who played the teacher was my professor in college.  He showed us this film both as an illustration for the sorts of things we would be learning in class and also to introduce us to his condition so that we would understand what it meant to interact with him.






Just because you like things neat and tidy, it doesn't mean you have OCD, but there is a slight possibility (2%-8% of the population) that you have something called OCPD - Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder. Now, this is really confusing because the names are so similar and even the symptoms seem similar. But OCPD is characterized by a general pattern of concern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness, and efficiency. People with OCPD do not generally feel the need to repeatedly perform ritualistic actions - a common symptom of OCD - and usually find pleasure in perfecting a task, whereas people with OCD are often more distressed after their actions.

According to Wikipedia: "Unlike OCPD, OCD is described as invasive, stressful, time-consuming obsessions and habits aimed at reducing the obsession related stress. OCD symptoms are at times regarded as ego-dystonic because they are experienced as alien and repulsive to the person. Therefore, there is a greater mental anxiety associated with OCD. In contrast, the symptoms seen in OCPD, though they are repetitive, are not linked with repulsive thoughts, images, or urges. OCPD characteristics and behaviors are known as ego-syntonic, as persons with the disorder view them as suitable and correct. On the other hand, the main features of perfectionism and inflexibility can result in considerable suffering in an individual with OCPD as a result of the associated need for control."

Anorexics are extremely likely to have either OCD or OCPD - or both! I likely am one of those anorexics that has both, as I have the distressful intrusive obsessive thoughts like patterns and loops of OCD as well as the satisfying feeling of lists and organization and the rigidity and inflexibility (my mother would say "stubbornness") associated with OCPD.

More about OCPD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_personality_disorder and more about OCD at Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obsessive%E2%80%93compulsive_disorder
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
So, there's a certain type of person for whom my words resonate. I became a pseudo-public figure so those people could hear me, not to gather a large following. It's more like I was just making myself into an available resource. I know that I'm not to everyone's taste, and I'm fine with that. The people who like what I have to say can read what I say, and the people who don't, don't have to.

So I find it interesting that only a portion of my posts get multiple shares. If I'm extremely lucky, the number of shares gets to the 2 digits. Like I said, I'm fine with that because I'm not in this for the numbers, I'm in this to be available to those who want my words and that's it.

But the really interesting part isn't that I only get a handful of shares every now and then. No, the interesting part is that the more angry I get, and the more cuss words I use, the higher my shares go. And the post that I made that starts right out of the gate with cussing and rage? Yeah, over 1,300 shares so far.

So, to those people who think that a message will go further if it's nicer, fuck you. To those people who like the sentiment of an activist, but not the anger, fuck you too. The anger is PART of the sentiment. Even people who were embarrassed by the cussing and preemptively apologized for it in their shares, they still shared it because it was *important*, because it said something that people felt needed to be said.

I know that I'm not going to accomplish very much sitting here at my computer and making Facebook posts. That's why I vote and why I sign reputable petitions and why I contact elected officials. But what I *can* do from my computer is provide people with a voice. I will express that rage and that sadness and that horror that people are feeling even when some people wish I would just shut up and stop causing a ruckus, because I can afford to. I will express anger so that people know they're not alone in their passion, and I will share words for those who need to borrow some.

I don't have very much to give, but I do have my emotions and my words. Those include swear words, ugly words, harsh words, because sometimes, those are the only words appropriate for the depth and the intensity of the emotions they represent. There's a reason why my most angry, most cuss-filled posts get the most shares - they reflect what people are feeling. You can't separate the "bad words" from the emotions. They are the expression of those emotions.

So I will continue to swear when I'm angry. And when I'm happy. And when I fucking feel like it. And you will know that I am offering an honest, raw expression of my emotions. Because I have built a life where I can do that, and since so many people still don't have that luxury, I refuse to modulate my words and my tone on their behalf for the dainty sensitivities of the very people who won't let them do it for themselves. Anyone who is more upset at my use of language than the message itself is part of the problem.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
http://polyamoryonpurpose.com/theres-no-right-way-to-do-polyamory/

It's about time other people are making blog posts on this subject. I've been saying this for years (it's even the catch phrase for Miss Poly Manners), and a handful of people have been saying it in online arguments for years, but there aren't very many articles, blog pieces - reference-able statements that take this position. Some try to be too conciliatory, as if they're afraid to alienate or piss off the people who are using this phrase as a silencing tactic.

We need more literature on this subject, particularly by names with larger audiences, and we, as a community, need to show a growing awareness and a harder stance against abusive tactics. These tactics masquerade as "reasonable", which is how they get entrenched; they co-opt well-meaning but misguided or simplistic philosophies because people who are trying to be well-meaning don't generally consider how they can be taken advantage of by those who aren't so well-meaning. We need to be uncovering them, revealing them for the manipulation that they are, and eradicating them from our lexicon, our philosophy, our communities.
"And for many people who do polyamory in a way that harms others “there’s no right way to do poly!” has become a useful tool to shut down conversation and deflect attention. As soon as someone says “There’s no right way to do poly,” the person confronting them has to defend their right to express their concerns. The conversation becomes about polyamory theory rather than whatever is concerning the person who spoke up.

This tactic can be used to shut down a secondary upset with the way their voice is being silenced, a mono partner who has agreed to try polyamory and is uncomfortable with the direct the relationship is going, other people in the local community calling out abuse or unethical behavior, and much more."
Abuse in polyamory is also a theoretical discussion, and this phrase is a useful tool to shut down conversation about that. When we talk about abuse in poly abstractly or generally, not speaking about a specific relationship, inevitably, someone comes along with "there's no right way to do poly" to justify gaslighting, manipulation, disrespecting of agency in the form of rules & hierarchy, control, and unequal distributions of power, even racism and sexism and other -isms that find their way into interpersonal relationships.

We are too afraid to say "there are wrong ways to do this", and we need to get over that.

In this article that was referenced in the previous link, Jessica Burde illustrates Shea Emma Fett's lesson that being victimized by one's control is not the same thing as being victimized by one's resistance to your control.
"In dealing with abusive relationships, it is important to recognize that playing the victim can be an extremely useful tool for the abuser. A classic example of this in polyamory is when one person tries to control their partner’s relationships. When their partner objects to this attempted control, the abuser responds with, “There is no one true way to do polyamory—you are just trying to control me and force me to do polyamory your way because you don’t like rules.”"
I ran into this a bunch of times in my past, but my most recent brush was also my most obvious example. He was so good at manipulation that I couldn't tell that he was doing it to others. I was convinced that he was ... well, not a "victim" because he had built up such a comfortable little power dynamic that everyone within it enabled each other so it didn't look like anyone was a "victim" of anything, but I was convinced that he was not in the driver's seat when it came to who controlled the group.  Ask me about poly-by-hostage rules sometime.

So when he employed those same tactics on a new partner and there was more turbulence than their little insulated, co-dependent group usually gave back to him, I, along with everyone else, assumed it was the new person's fault. The new person was the disruptive one, obvs, because things were running smoothly until they came along.

But the new person made large enough waves that the red flags finally started popping up in my field of vision. Not quite enough for me to have recognized it, but enough to have *primed* me for when he finally had the opportunity to turn his tactics on me. It was only when he accused *me* of victimizing him for resisting his control that I could finally connect the dots and see what he was doing to everyone else.

The kicker for me was when my life was falling apart by events totally out of my control - my landlord selling the house after my lease was up and not giving me enough notice to move out, the person who "rescued" me by offering me a room until I could find a new place to live torturing my cats while I was at work, a new partner who I was deeply in love with and deeply insecure about deciding to move away before the relationship had even gotten established, shit like that - when things were out of my control and I was flailing around trying to hold onto anything that wasn't sinking, he said to me "how could you do this to me?" It was in that moment that I finally realized that this was not a case of two people with different but valid styles of polyamory. This was a case of one person trying to control another, and the other resisting that control, and the one person then crying "victim!" when he didn't get his way.

Every argument we had where I tried to explain how his rules were hurting other people, he responded with "you're just trying to make me do polyamory YOUR way - this way works for us!" Yeah, in the way that any abusive situation "works" for the people in it - the one in control gets to stay in control and the one being victimized gets gaslighted into thinking that they're being abused for their own good. Every time I saw one member of his group try to reach outside the bounds, and he would freak out and try to reign them back in, every time I called him on it, he would yell at me that everyone in the group "agreed" to this manner of veto and group consensus and it "works for them" and that when I pointed out the pain it caused one of the other members to give up something in order to assuage his hurt feelings at things that had nothing to do with him, he would say that I was trying to "impose" MY way of polyamory onto him - that *I* was victimizing *him* and trying to force him into a style of polyamory that wasn't a good fit for them. There are lots of people who seem to think that "agreeing" to disempowerment is always acceptable, that their agreement makes it empowering. This is not a D/s arrangement we're talking about here, this is abuse. By definition, someone who is disempowered isn't *able* to give informed consent - that's why we have statutory rape laws. We can coerce people to "agree" to all manner of things, it doesn't make their agreement "empowering" or right.

"You don't get to arbitrarily decide how to take new partners without my approval" - uh, yes I do. You have choices you can make based on how I decide to take on new partners, but those decisions aren't about you, they're about me. I do have full control over those decisions that affect me. This should be especially obvious when I'm poly, I'm out, and my policy of no-rules is widely known and published in my online writings, but technically, anyone has that right even if they're in a monogamous or otherwise restricted relationship. Betraying a promise is hurtful, and I don't condone any kind of action where one takes a romantic or sexual relationship without one's existing partner's knowledge and then intends to maintain the ruse that the new relationship doesn't or didn't exist, but they still have that *right* of bodily autonomy. No one needs another's *approval* for what you do with your own body, mind, or emotions because those things don't belong to them, you just need their non-coerced informed consent to engage in whatever kind of relationship with *you* that you're asking them to engage in with you.

"You don't get to decide the terms of how I speak to you or what I'm allowed to say to you" (said to me when I told him he was not to contact me again unless it was to apologize for something) - uh, yes I do. Again, I have full control over decisions that affect me. I absolutely get to decide the terms of how you interact with me and you are not "victimized" when I resist your attempts to control me or your access to me. You are not a "victim" when I fall in love with someone new and our relationship moves at a speed and in a direction we didn't anticipate.  You are not a "victim" when you violate my space and I refuse you access to me without an apology for it.  You don't have to like my decisions, you can feel hurt by my decisions, but you are not *victimized* by my decision to not interact with you or when I resist your attempts to direct what I do with my body, my mind, or my emotions.

Things that I do with my body, mind, or emotions are not things that I do TO YOU. They can affect you (which is why I'm so adamant about building friendly, or at least civil, metamour relations), but they are not done TO YOU. They are not about you. They are things that are happening to me. And you have no right to control those things or cry victimization when you don't like what happens to me.  Manipulation, intimidation, and control are, in fact, the wrong ways to do polyamory.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
So ... just FYI, it's possible to defend a person's right to say no while still acknowledging that their *reasons* for saying no stem from internalized cultural bigotry.

Like, they totally have that right to say no to sex with anyone at any time and for any reason. If I ever saw, say, a black person yell "you HAVE to have sex with me, otherwise you're racist!", I'd totally rip them a new one.

But it's also possible for a person to not want to have sex with a particular marginalized demographic (note: not an individual in that demographic, but the entire demographic) *because* the culture of bigotry that they grew up in affected their preferences and tastes as they developed into the adult sexual being that they are today.

Denying that we are products of our culture, that we don't develop in a vacuum, and that it's really difficult, if not impossible, to tease out exactly what parts of us are "nature" and what parts of us are "nurture" (save the false binary comments, I'm making a point here), are contributing factors to exactly that sort of cultural bigotry that usually ends up raising this exact issue.

Maybe if we could learn to accept that people are contradictions, that no one is a Good Person (TM) or a Bad Person (TM), and that we all do both good and harmful shit to people, maybe we could start admitting that bigotry influences us instead of defending ourselves as if our very integrity depended on never ever having a bad thought or bad motivation ever ever, like, ever, and then we could finally get on the road to moving past it.

Also, P.S. - "moving past it" doesn't mean "and now you have to start having sex with people you don't want to".
joreth: (Misty in Box)
I have a question and I need for everyone interested in answering it to assume that I am asking in good faith, not trolling.

Are there any articles that directly compare and contrast the difference between being gaslighted and someone who is *actually* the horrible things that a gaslighter accuses the victim to be?

Let me expand a bit.  OK, a lot.

I've had the misfortune to see a gaslighter work his black magic now in person, right in front of my eyes but on someone other than me, and I've seen the devastation it caused. I've seen it in a poly context, which, for some reason, actually made it harder for me to see at first - easier for the gaslighter to hide. I've been an outspoken critic of what I have eventually come to see as real abuse in the poly community and how our own community standards protect and privilege abusive relationship structures and behaviours. So, in no way do I want to counteract any of the work done to bring awareness and solutions to gaslighting.

But I'm reading a lot of articles on gaslighting lately, and it struck me that, if I switched perspectives in my head and read the article *as if I were* the gaslighter himself (choosing a gendered pronoun because I am most familiar with male abusers and female victims, and I feel the need to use different pronouns to help keep the illustrations understandable), using the excuses and justifications he gave to make it look like he was the victim, if I took on that mindset for a moment, I couldn't tell from many of these articles who was whom. And a gaslighter or narcissist can find ammunition in these articles to continue their subjugation, and validation in these words.

So, for example, this one article lists several "tell-tale signs":

1. Something is “off” about your friend, partner, … but you can’t quite explain or pinpoint what.

So, this gaslighting observation that I mentioned above, in the beginning, he had me (a close but outside observer) convinced at first that he was the real victim. He confided in me his perspective. I do believe that he really did believe the stories he was spinning to me. It wasn't until I talked to the victim alone and then confronted him about the victim's side, and then HEARD him say "no, they don't feel that way, here [victim], tell Joreth that you don't feel that way" and then the victim proceeded to confirm the gaslighter *even though* I had just had an hour long conversation with them in tears about exactly how they felt. The victim told me that *I* must have misunderstood or misheard their anguished cries, that it wasn't a big deal, that everything was worked out.

I KNOW WHAT I HEARD. The victim felt a particular way, the gaslighter insisted that they didn't, and then the victim's story changed to match the gaslighter's version.

My point is that I believe the gaslighter is that fucked in the head that he (and most of them) really does believe his (their) version of events. I don't believe that most gaslighters are deliberately plotting to undermine people like in the movie, but I know for a fact that undermining people is the effect that's happening. I was one of his confidants, so I heard what I really believe to be his honest and true view of himself and his motivations. I believe that I understand the view of himself that he holds, at least well enough to read an article from a gaslighter's perspective who doesn't think he is doing anything wrong.

So, when I read articles like this and I put myself in the mindset of that confidante for whom I was on his side before I knew better, I have a hard time telling from these articles that *he* was the one who was doing the gaslighting. That's how he had me fooled for as long as I was.

He believed that something was "off" about his victim. They kept "changing their story". They weren't consistent. They saw things in strange, corner-turning ways that he didn't understand. I was constantly playing "interpreter" for them because he just didn't understand the victim.

4. You feel threatened and on-edge, but you don’t know why.

As the blogger Shea Emma Fett alluded to, abusers really do feel victimized, but they feel victimized by their victims' resistance to the abuser's control. When this gaslighter attempted to control his victim, and they resisted, the abuser felt personally threatened. I went out on a date once with a guy who I had a history with and I was interested in a future with, and my then-bf, when I told him all about it, accused me "HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!" Listen here, asshole, I did *nothing* "to" you. This thing *happened* to me. It may have affected you, but it wasn't done *to* you and certainly not with malice. Nevertheless, he, and the abuser I'm talking about, felt threatened. This abuser was *constantly* fighting with his victim, to the point that he started working as late as possible to avoid being at home where another fight might break out. He was on edge all the time. He didn't understand why this was happening or how to avoid it (because he didn't understand that it was his own doing and he didn't understand the victim's wants - namely the desire to not be abused). He would check off "yes" to this one too.

6. You never quite feel “good enough” and try to live up to the expectations and demands of others, even if they are unreasonable or harm you in some way.

The motivation for this gaslighter's behaviour was a massive amount of fear and insecurity.  Every time he felt his insecurity crop up and it prompted him to try to control other people to manage his fear, I stuck my nose in to tell him that he should do better.  His victim also ineffectually tried to tell him that his attempts to control them was hurting them and he needed to do better.  In my own arguments with him, he accused me of being unreasonable for insisting that his attempts to control his partners were harmful.  He insisted that *my* suggestions for not controlling people were actually harmful *to him* somehow.  We argued in circles and I never got a clear explanation for how other men (even men that he didn't like) seeing naked pictures of his wife harmed *him* (for example), but he clearly believed that it did.

Remember that ex above?  He honestly believed that my date, and what we did on our date, with my new prospective partner was something done *to* him, and that it harmed him in some way, even though he wasn't on that date and he was told about the date both before and afterwards, prior to my seeing that ex in person again so that he could make informed decisions about how to relate to me in the future (and no, I didn't have wild, unprotected, fluid-exchanged sex with some random stranger and come home with an STD or something, which is usually what people point to when they want to defend the position that it's reasonable to be upset about what one partner does outside of a given relationship or to control, or even request, a specific set of behaviour for outside a given relationship).

I insist that a no-rules, boundaries-based relationship is the better relationship standard, and the gaslighter believed that my standards are too high, are unreasonable, and harm him in some way.  He's not the only one who thinks that either.  I have been told, verbatim, that not everyone is as "evolved" as I am when it comes to relationship and emotional maturity.  I call bullshit on the "evolved" part.  As far as I'm concerned, respect for agency is the bare minimum.  I get that it's not always *easy*, but it's also not some advanced, high level concept set aside for, I dunno, monks who have reached enlightenment or Clears who have spent millions of dollars to the Church or whatever.  Learning to respect other people's agency is something that children are capable of learning, and it's a lifetime of societal reinforcement that causes us to unlearn it (if we learned it in the first place) by instilling a sense of entitlement to other people's bodies, emotions, and minds.  When fear has a hold of you, respecting other people's agency may be challenging, but challenging is not the same as "harmful".  But because it can be challenging, someone who is an abuser or who is gaslighting someone can indeed believe that the standards their victim might suggest are "too high" and are "harming him".  Personal growth is uncomfortable, especially when you resist it.  That doesn't make it, necessarily, "harmful", but it can feel that way, so a gaslighter could see this "tell-tale sign" as evidence for his narrative too.

7.  You feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with you, e.g. you’re neurotic or are “losing it.”

The gaslighter excused his efforts to control people away by claiming he had PTSD.  I do not believe that self-diagnosis, I believe another one made by an actual diagnostician but that's not actually relevant right now.  What is relevant is that the gaslighter *does* believe that he suffers from PTSD and he does, indeed, exhibit several symptoms, including "checking out" (which, I'm told by reliable clinicians, are also symptoms of a handful of other mental illnesses including the diagnosis I believe is more likely to be the correct one).  Every time he tried to control his victim and they pushed back, here's what would happen.  The victim would insist on their reality, and the gaslighter would go glassy-eyed and catatonic, unable to interact with the world around him.  *Until*, that is, the victim recanted and accepted the gaslighter's reality.  Then, suddenly, he would "wake up" and start interacting again.  Later, though, he would use that as "evidence" that the victim was "inconsistent" and kept "changing their story" and therefore shouldn't be trusted to know what reality was.

But because he would get "triggered" by his victim's resistance, he would often come to me in distress over how he was "losing it" or that there was something wrong with him.  PTSD and other mental illnesses are viewed as "something fundamentally wrong with you" or "neurotic" by society in general, so regardless of which mental illness he might have, he could legitimately think that "something is fundamentally wrong" and he would be "correct" about that.  He felt that he was being hollowed out, that he couldn't function in daily life anymore as their arguments increased in frequency.  He had trouble concentrating at work because he was always upset about their latest argument.  He was stressed and frightened by obsessive thoughts of losing his victim.  When I saw only his catatonia and the aftermath of their arguments, it was completely believable that he was the "victim".  But that required keeping the victim feeling isolated in an "us against them" tribalism within the group, because as soon as I started talking to the victim themself, and seeing the arguments from the beginning, not just the effect of the argument on him, things looked very different.

My second fiance was a gaslighter.  He was very young, though, and clumsy about it, and I'm way too self-confident for those kinds of tactics to work for very long on me.  He did things like this too, only he wasn't nearly as believable about it.  Whenever we got into an argument, if it looked like I was going to win (or that he was going to lose, since the argument was usually about whether or not he could have sex with me or I could go out in public without him), he would get "sick" somehow.  He got "the flu" twice a week on the nights of my ballroom dance class.  He got an upset stomach on laundry night if I wanted to do it at my parents' house instead of his parents' house.  He got another one of his upset stomachs on the night of a friend's bachelorette party when I told him it was "no guys allowed".

One time, he even "knocked himself unconscious" on a low-hanging pipe in the carport when we walked from the car to the house during an argument.  He managed to somehow hit himself in the head hard enough to lose consciousness completely without actually making any sound of impact and while moving at the rate of a slow lumber.  I've had someone swing a metal pipe at me with the intention of hurting me and hit me on the head and I didn't go fully passed out.  Head injuries don't work like they do in the movies.  And when I left his ass lying on the concrete, he also somehow managed to get "robbed" in broad daylight while lying unconscious (that one was the last straw and I called his bluff hard enough that he admitted his lie).  His various maladies and misfortunes were intended to distract me from the argument and trigger my compassion so that I would forget why I was mad at him and run to him to take care of him.  Fortunately for me, I'm not the "maternal" type and my reaction was to give the benefit of the doubt the first time or two, but then to become contemptuous of an adult who couldn't care for himself.  Contempt is the number one relationship killer, and unconsciously developing that emotion as a response to abusive tactics has probably saved my life on multiple occasions.

So, once I saw this gaslighter's tactic from the other side, I recognized it from my own abusive ex-fiance.  He would get "sick" and I would have to stop arguing to care for him, because if I kept being mad at him while he was sick, then *I* was the monster with no compassion.  Fortunately for me, I'm not terribly bothered by people I'm mad at thinking that I'm not compassionate because *I* know better, and that's what matters to me.  But this gaslighter was taking legitimate mental health issues and preying on his victim's concern over harming others and their fear of being seen as not compassionate.  Again, I believe that he really believes his side of things.  I don't think he actually deliberately calculated how to fake PTSD in order to win an argument (whereas I do believe my ex-fiance faked his unconsciousness - which happened more than once - although his upset stomachs were probably a real reaction to anxiety).  I believe that he really was "checking out" because I believe there is really something very wrong with him.  But it was always just so *convenient* that it ended as soon as the victim recanted, and then that recanting was used later to further undermine the victim's position and even their standing in the community.  If the victim stood their ground, they were "driving" the gaslighter to a mental breakdown, but if the victim backed down, they were unreliable and couldn't be trusted.  Either way, the victim was the "monster" who kept "harming" their abuser.

But from the gaslighter's perspective, since these episodes came more and more frequently as the relationship spiraled faster and faster towards its demise, he felt that he was "losing it" and becoming more and more unhinged.  And he was becoming unhinged.  He was a total wreck of a person by the end.  But he was still a gaslighter, and I do not believe the victim was doing it *to* the gaslighter.  I believe it is a consequence of the sort of person the gaslighter is who had to face the sort of person that the victim was.

8. You feel like you’re constantly overreacting or are too sensitive.
9. You feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood and depressed.

This is really just more of an extension of the last one.  The relationship was spiraling out of control because the victim was doing more and more resisting of the gaslighter's attempts to control them and their own breakdown as a result of the gaslighting working, and that led to daily fights that consumed their every waking moment and also took over the atmosphere of the rest of the immediate community whenever either of them was present.  When you feel like your life is going out of control, regardless of why or how, it's not unexpected to feel isolated, hopeless, misunderstood, or depressed, especially if someone is trying to tell you that your behaviour is out of line.  When he wanted to control his victim, I told him that he was essentially overreacting.  I told him that he needed to dial it back and let his victim (who I had not yet begun to think of as "the victim") have their agency and do their thing.  I told him, more or less, that his feelings of fear and the need to control them were too much, out of sync with the reality of the situation, and that the solution was for him to get over his issues, not control the victim's behaviour.  In essence, it could be argued that he saw my words as telling him that he was "overreacting or are too sensitive".  So, from his perspective, these are a big "yes" also.


11. You feel scared and as though “something is terribly wrong,” but you don’t know what or why.

Again, I believe that he believes his own narrative.  This gaslighter felt that his life was spinning out of control and he didn't know how to wrestle control back.  Every day was fraught with arguments and intense fear.  More and more people were becoming unhappy by the splash zone of this one relationship.  Life began to look chaotic and turbulent.  Not only was this relationship a source of pain and fear, but because the two of them were constantly fighting, all his other relationships started to suffer and he started to fear that he was about to lose his other relationships as well.  Then, not a month after he told me that I was the one stable thing in his life, we had our own blow-out that he apparently couldn't anticipate.  Everything was "terribly wrong", but because the truth was his gaslighting and he didn't recognize it, he didn't know why everything was "terribly wrong" or how to fix it.

12. You find it hard to make decisions.

With his catatonic episodes happening more and more frequently, and the arguments happening constantly, he started to revert to a more child-like mental state.  He had trouble making decisions because his brain was just freezing up from all the chaos.  He was never good at making decisions anyway, preferring others to take the lead on things, which is actually one of the reasons why it took me so long to figure out that he was controlling the people around him to manage his insecurities.  It's hard to believe someone is a manipulator when they appear to be such a follower.  But because he felt that his life was out of control and that he was losing his own grip on reality, making decisions became more difficult than usual.

13. You feel as though you’re a much weaker version of yourself, and you were much more strong and confident in the past.

This was something he actually told me, more or less. He was so distraught by everything that was happening, that he felt like he was becoming "hollow", which is sort of like saying he is a "weaker version of [himself]". I have absolutely no doubt that he felt like he was losing his mind. His life wasn't looking the way he wanted it to look and the way he had always controlled his life in the past wasn't working with this partner. This partner was resisting his control, and he felt so entitled to controlling them to keep his own mental issues manageable that their resistance to his control was threatening and made him feel harmed.  Having those feelings, and the extent to which this whole relationship was disrupting everyone's life, it doesn't matter that he was the one abusing the victim, those feelings still feel real and still affect how one sees oneself and their place in the world.

14. You feel guilty for not feeling happy like you used to.

This gaslighter was *known* for his exuberance for life. In the dictionary, next to the word "happy", you'd see his picture.  I've known a bunch of people like that - in fact, it seems to be one of the elements of "my type". [livejournal.com profile] tacit is one of those people for whom "happy" is an integral characteristic too.  But, obviously, this gaslighter was not happy all the time during this period.  He was stressed and anxious and depressed and angry and sad all the time.  For someone whose very *identity* includes "happy", not being happy can make one feel like one is not oneself anymore.  And for some of those people, if part of their identity rests on their ability to be happy and for others to see them as happy, particularly if their happiness makes other people happy and their sadness makes other people sad for them, no longer feeling happy can feel like a personal failure.

So, this gaslighter failing to control his victim, causing them to be miserable, which causes them to challenge the relationship and the attempts to control, which makes the *gaslighter* unhappy, this can lead to a sense of guilt for not maintaining this happiness in the face of all this loss and misery even though the gaslighter is the one causing the chain reaction in the first place.  Since this sort of gaslighter doesn't realize that he's the one setting the spark, he has a difficult time recognizing that his unhappiness is something he can fix because it's something he caused.  Or, he might suspect or know (possibly subconsciously) that it's something he caused (even if he believes he caused it but have the wrong ideas on *how* he caused it), and so feel guilt for knowing that he did it all to himself.

So, this whole long exposition is to explain that I am looking for sources to help explain why, when a gaslighter feels these things, it's *not* a sign that they are a victim or being gaslighted by their actual victims.  When a person is gaslighted, they start to believe that they are an abusive monster who is doing terrible things to their abuser, but an abuser actually *is* doing all those things.  I could write a similar checklist of "how to know you're being abusive" and read it through the perspective of a gaslight victim and that victim could conceivably reach the conclusion that they are, indeed, an abusive monster because of the lens that each is viewing the world through.  I know there's a difference, I just don't know how to explain or illustrate that and I'm looking for sources to cite and other people's words to use as analogy or illustration or explanation.
joreth: (Misty Sleeping)

www.theage.com.au/interactive/2016/the-big-sleep/

I'm seeing this article making the rounds on FB. It's a story about a married couple at the end of their years choosing how to finish their life. Consider this your content warning both for the article and the rest of my comments.

For most of my life, I have never understood the desire for suicide. Death, or as [livejournal.com profile] tacit and my metamour call it, The Void, has always terrified me. I want any and all methods possible to prolong my life. I suppose I could be called a transhumanist, because I'm in favor of radical life extension. I want to live for hundreds, thousands of years. I want death to be *optional*.

And that's what makes me support this couple. I couldn't understand this decision until recently, but I also have always known that it was not my place to decide what was right for other people. Just because I couldn't imagine the sort of circumstances that would make someone embrace death doesn't mean that I would *never* understand that decision, and the thought of longing for death but being denied it was just as terrifying to me as the thought of dying itself.

I have been suicidal twice in my life. The first time, I was a very young teen. That teenager doesn't seem like me. I see her from the outside now. So I was unable to empathize with people who wanted to die, although I supported their right to choose on principle. The second time was much, much more recently, and it was after I discovered words like "transhumanism" and "radical life extension". This time, I was able to experience being in the mind of someone who longed for death and who wasn't able to understand people who wanted to go on living. Now I live with the memories of being both people in my head.

You might think that, having come (mostly) out of a suicidal depression, I would feel grateful that I stuck it out long enough to no longer wish for death, and to find life even more precious for those (and other) close brushes with death. But this makes me even more strongly in favor of the rights of assisted suicide. It's true, I'm glad that I did not have the opportunity to go through with it. Now. But I am even more convinced now that our approach to suicide is wrong. There are far too few resources to help people like me who are having an emotional imbalance, for whatever reason, get past it and learn how to embrace life, and there are far too many laws that are unable to distinguish between people like me and people like those in this article. These are not the same kinds of suicidal tendencies, but in both circumstances, the tendencies are treated the same - as a problem we have to legislate against. Instead of placing benches in the courtyard, we put up signs telling people not to sit on the planter.

These people made a rational decision that they considered from all angles for many, many years. They do not believe in an afterlife, which could (and often does) influence someone's desire to die by convincing them that there's something better waiting for them "on the other side". They had nothing to gain from their suicide, and plenty to lose - including their daughters, their freedom if it failed, their daughters' freedom if they were found guilty of assisting the suicides, but most importantly, they stood to lose that which frightened them more than death - a slow decline into pain and confusion.

I am no longer certain that I can face that kind of future with a stalwart, steadfast commitment to life borne of fear of The Void. I'd like to think that I still love life as ardently as before. But I can't fault them for their choice, and I can understand their fear better than I ever have before. I have always stood for making death optional because my goal is to live forever. But in making life optional, that requires making death itself a valid choice. As the unrelated saying goes, consent is meaningless if you can't say no. Making death optional doesn't mean very much if you can't choose that option when you want it.

Surprisingly, this article actually made me feel hopeful and optimistic. Yes, they died. But they died on their own terms, just as they lived on their own terms. We should all be so lucky.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But it's not FAIR that I have to give up X / not do X / he gets to do X!"

It's amazing how much more fair the world becomes when you stop feeling entitled to things that were never yours to begin with and when you see your partners are real human beings with their own agency instead of need fulfillment machines.

"But we're *married! It's not fair that she can just come along and start taking up his time!  He should be cutting time for her out of everything BUT his time with me!"

"But I was here first, so it's not fair for him to expect to get an equal amount of love that I get!"

"But we made an *agreement* that they would never go to that restaurant together!  That's OUR place!  It's not fair to go without me!"

My partner's time is not my time.  It belongs to them and they choose to share it with me or not as they wish.

My partner's emotions are not my emotions.  They belong to them and they choose to share their emotions with me or not as they wish.  They choose to allow their emotions to be influenced by me or not as they wish.

That restaurant belongs to neither myself nor my partner and is open equally to our business.  While it may be associated with certain memories and emotions for me, it is not, actually, the source of my specialness.  My specialness belongs to me.  My partner's specialness belongs to them.  Our relationship's specialness exists only because we exist in the relationship together.  No one can take my specialness away from me because it IS me.  My partner's specialness does not belong to me because it is a representation of my partner.  My partner can choose to share whatever of themselves makes them special with whomever they wish, and I am fortunate, not entitled, to be one of the people they choose to share themselves with.

My relationships are a gift that I get to open every single day. They are more than fair because they are not anything that is owed to me.

Releasing the sense of entitlement to my partners' bodies, time, emotions, and mind makes my relationships much more fair and tends to give everyone a larger slice of the pie.  Because agency is not a finite, tangible resource, so loosening the grip can actually make more of it to go around.

Sometimes, we have to let go of our hold on things in order to better secure our connection to them.  There's that saying about letting something go and if it comes back, it's meant to be, but if it doesn't, it wasn't meant to be.  I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not *entirely* accurate, because it depends on how you define "let it go".  You can't replace codependency or attachment with apathy.  If you don't nourish your relationships, they won't flourish.  The idea isn't to reign in your feelings for someone and stop caring for them.  In fact, letting go of entitlement is an act of caring *more*.  It's an act of courage.  You have to care so much for them, that you're willing to let them be a fully developed human being without your control to make them act as you desire them to act.

What you're letting go is your fear, your desire for power, your belief in control, your disbelief in their humanity.  Those are what you let go of, and those are things you don't want to come back.  When you let *those* things go, people are more likely to want to stick around.  When you let those things go, everything suddenly gets more "fair".
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Just to be clear, with all my liberal friends posting from liberal sources, I have yet to see anyone advocate (beyond schadenfreude wishful thinking) treating the Oregon terrorists the way that black people are treated.  I'm sure that someone, somewhere, is actually, seriously, advocating that "solution", but every single comparison I've seen from my so-called "inconsistent" liberal sources are making the comparisons for the purpose of driving home the point that the way black "criminals" and black suspects are treated is patently unfair and excessive, not to suggest that the correct approach is to turn that same police overreach onto the siege.

With one notable exception that I kinda agree with. I have seen it suggested that, *IF* (and this is a hypothetical here, not an actual suggestion for action) the excessive police brutality was turned on to white Christian males, then and only then would the people defending the police actions against black people and other minorities understand and make a stand opposing police brutality.

The suggestion was that, because mainly white people don't see that kind of brutality enforced on people who they can empathize with (i.e. who look like them and talk like them and hold the same values as them), they will need to see it happening to their "own" people in order to understand the full atrocity of militarizing police and allowing excessive force as SOP.

The hypothesizing was suggesting that the only reason to want, or even contemplate, law enforcement to treat the Oregon situation the same as the way people of color are normally treated is not to encourage or support police brutality, but because that might ironically be the only way to stop it.  The hypothetical posed wasn't to suggest that we *should* do this, but to suggest that, *if* it were done, it might have the affect of speeding up the process of getting people on board with demilitarizing police and enforcing corrective action on law enforcement, and ultimately, demilitarizing police and reducing police brutality and enforcing police accountability is the goal.

Fortunately, many of us on the liberal side of the spectrum are also sci-fi and comic book geeks. We've already explored this concept in safe, fictional outlets. I *do* believe it's true that the people supporting shit like BlueLivesMatter won't see the horror of the entrenched police brutality culture unless it's turned on them instead of people they can rationalize as somehow "deserving" it.

But the reason why all the articles and posts that I've seen comparing the treatment of white terrorists to random black people on the street are pointing out the discrepancy and hypocrisy is NOT to suggest that we legitimize the use of excessive force by turning it on white terrorists because that's basically the origin story of a bunch of villains.

Remember Unbreakable? Remember Captain America's story arc through the current crop of Marvel movies? The bad guys are all using ... questionable ... tactics to ensure the safety of the people. They all have justifiable motivations for removing people's liberties, for supporting or promoting violence, for the use of excessive force. They're trying to stop *supervillains* and *aliens* for fuck's sake - extreme measures are called for!

And, in following through with those motivations they turn into the villains.


https://youtu.be/YeT7MzDcpeg


"I believe in something greater than myself - a better world, a world without sin."
"So me and mine gotta lay down and die so you can live in your better world?"
"I'm not going to live there.  There's no place for me there, any more than there is for you.  Malcom, I'm a monster.  What I do is evil, I have no illusions about it but it must be done." ~
the most self-aware villain in nearly all of fiction.

Which is why liberals continue to compare the treatment of Those Assholes (I refuse to name mass shooters and other terrorists to reduce their fame and their reach) to the treatment of people who might be class valedictorians or sports stars or cosplayers or they might be petty criminals but who have the audacity to be doing whatever they were doing when they caught the attention of law enforcement with dark skin or an unfamiliarly pronounceable name or clothing that represents different religious beliefs. To show that these actions are villainous, not to recommend turning around and doing them to those privileged enough not to have experienced them before.

Sure, the downtrodden fantasize and daydream about doing to their oppressors what was done to them. That's the reason an entire genre of revenge fiction exists. In Revenge of the Nerds, the nerds violate the privacy and the agency of all the "cool girls", whether those specific individual girls harmed them specifically or not. Because they're the oppressed protagonists, the movie was loved and their actions were excused as justifiable ... at the time. Now, however, with a new generation of liberals willing to be more critical and hold higher standards, RotN is widely viewed as the jackoff wish fulfillment porn of sad, whiny white dudes who are the current crop of villains in geekdom (see my other post on the new SW movie for more about that).

Progressive means that progress has to be made. We continue to evolve and develop even more nuanced and finer grained understandings of social justice and freedom, forged by compassion. Liberals are not content with our parents' liberalism, but criticism of liberalism continues to see it as a static, unchanging set of dogmatic beliefs.

So when people compare the treatment of high profile, violent, white male criminals to the treatment of, basically, any person of color, it is *generally* not a hypocritical call to treat the high profile, violent, white male criminal exactly the same (although some argument could be made that a white male firing a gun AT A COP and tricking cops into proximity of a fucking bomb really is deserving of having the cop shoot back). It's to point out that even violent offenders who may or may not actually deserve that kind of response are still treated with more respect, dignity, compassion, and care than a kid with a toy gun, a guy who illegally sells cigarettes, a kid who shoplifted, and another kid who smoked a joint.

The point is to treat that child, that shop owner, those teenagers, with the bare minimum of caution and rational threat analysis and avoidance of force that a white dude with a bomb, a deluded Bonnie & Clyde wannabe white couple, and a bunch of white supremacist conspiracist dudes who want to *overthrow the federal government with automatic rifles* (yet forgot to pack enough Doritos to last the winter) get.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
OK secular lefties, here's the thing...

You can disagree with an ideology. You can disagree vehemently with an ideology. You can even believe that the Slippery Slope applies here and is not a fallacy - that the fundamental concepts in the ideology sets up a culture in which the radical extension of that ideology is a natural consequence. You can even hope that some day, reason will win out and that ideology will be relegated to a chapter in a history textbook on "myths previous eras and civilizations once believed."

But what you cannot then do is ACT upon any individual person in the demographic that holds that ideology in a negative way, such as insulting them or physically assaulting them, unless it is a clear cut case of self-defense or it is a clear cut case of addressing their *ideology*, not their person. And I mean clear-fucking-cut, like they're charging you with a meat cleaver shouting "I'm doing this for my ideology!" at the top of their lungs (srsly, guys, entitled white dudes are writing manifestos - it's fucking clear cut race / gender / religion related, not a "loner" with "mental health issues").

When you take "This ideology is bad" and then follow it up with "this individual who uses this ideological label must therefore be bad so I will preemptively beat the shit out of them / call them names with historical or cultural oppressive contexts / refuse them the basic rights of survival and human dignity / bar them from entering a public place on principle just in case they might do something bad even though this individual hasn't actually done anything bad that I have proof of or said anything to me at all", that makes you a fucking bigot and part of the problem.

People are notoriously good at compartmentalizing their beliefs and at dealing with cognitive dissonance. Most people claim an identity label that is associated with a whole passel of shit they don't agree with. While that may actually be one of the problems you might have with that particular ideology or the people who hold it, this means, practically speaking, that you can't predict any given individual's likelihood of acting either harmfully or beneficially just by their identity label.

You need, like, actual proof of intentions for that.

Catholic doctrine, for instance, is very clear that it opposes all form of birth control, sex before marriage, homosexuality, and divorce. It takes a hard stance on those issues. There is no grey area, no wiggle room. Catholic doctrine is definitely, clearly, adamantly opposed.  But how many Catholics do you know who have done one or more of those things? And how many Catholic churches do you know have allowed those members to remain part of the congregation?

Fuck that, how many people are fawning all over themselves to gush at the Pope whenever he gets quoted out of context as saying something that can vaguely be interpreted as not being a total douchenozzle on those topics? Even though, in context, he says nothing of the sort and even though his PR team always cleans up after him and makes an official statement that the Pope didn't mean to sound so liberal but that he really is still a douchenozzle and even though the official policy is very clear and has been so for generations and even though he goes on to say exactly that sort of douchenozzlery in other places with other audiences who don't want to hear the wishy-washy version of the Pope but that the liberal media doesn't cover?

People claim all sorts of labels for themselves. Many of those people do not practice the literal definition of the labels, or they don't practice all the things associated with those labels. In fact, that's something that I complain about often - people who use labels in ways contrary to the label's intent and muddying up the waters for the communicative purposes of labels (and please don't derail the comments with "that's why I don't use labels" - I take issue with that too but that's a subject for another rant).

You cannot tell what actual beliefs a person holds by their labels. You ought to be able to, since that's what makes labels meaningful. But you can't. You can use the labels to give a broad, general idea, but they are not predictive. You cannot predict, by a person's label, which specific beliefs they hold or how those beliefs will express themselves on that individual.

That's why the whole men vs. women thing is bullshit. Even for the legitimate times when we can statistically make two categories of people called "men" and "women", those labels are not predictive and you cannot use a category term to make specific assumptions or predictions about individual people. Even statistically different categories like "man" and "woman" have such a high degree of overlap that they become completely useless terms when trying to guess things about a specific individual. At best, they can be used *descriptively* (as opposed to prescriptively) after that individual has self-identified as such and the people you are communicating with all have the same understanding of the label.

For instance, I often use MBTI as shorthand. I identify as an INTJ, so I might try to communicate to someone that I'm having trouble with their spontaneity because I'm a J. That saves me a lot of time trying to explain that being schedule oriented is an innate trait that causes me distress when upset, blah blah blah, and then the other person can know that I'm not having a *personal* issue with *them*, that this is just a thing about me that makes me "me". So, once we have established this baseline set of definitions for communication, then I and that other person can use the labels as shorthand in the future to reference a broader definition that we don't have to spell out every single goddamn time we need to reference that concept. "I am doing this thing because I am an INTJ, not because of some other assumed motivation or intention you might want to ascribe to me."  "Oh, got it, I understand your motivations now."

However, I once dated a guy who broke a Valentine's Day date with me to go out with his other gf. He used the excuse "but you're an INTJ, and INTJ's don't care about holidays, but she's an INFP, and they do care about holidays, so it's a bigger deal to her than to you."

WRONG! 1) He changed my schedule, which is a huge no-no for a schedule-oriented person. 2) He didn't ask me first, he just assumed I wouldn't mind, which is taking away my ability to control my own life. I might not have minded, but I wanted to be able to make that decision for myself. 3) I have personal insecurities that have nothing to do with MBTI about my poly relationships not being viewed as "real" by my partners and metamours, so couplehood markers like holiday dates are actually important to me even if the holiday itself is not. 4) She wasn't poly and I was having massive conflicts with her over her inability to deal with being part of a poly network that included me, including doing things that put him in awkward positions of having to "choose" between us and of him too often choosing her "over" me and this was just one more glaring example of how I was "losing" in a relationship that wasn't supposed to have "winners" and "losers".

Back to the main point: you can't predict based on a person's identity label how they will express the beliefs associated with that identity label. At best, labels can be used after-the-fact by the individuals who hold them to describe themselves and then to use as shorthand to refer to that description at a later time.

Of course, we're all going to try to make assumptions and predictions based on those labels. That's what our brain uses labels for. If someone tells me that they're a Catholic, I'm going to assume they hold a whole collection of beliefs that are associated with Catholicism. But I'm going to be *aware* that I'm making those assumptions and I'm not going to preemptively attack them or try to bar them from living in my area on the assumption that they might be anti-abortion, which might then prompt them to bomb an abortion provider's office. There has to be evidence that they are actively planning a violent crime before I can take any action, including verbal, intended to prevent the presumed crime.

So when secularists start supporting policies banning Syrian refugees, for instance, based on the argument that Islam is problematic therefore all Muslims should be presumed to be dangerous based on their holy texts justifying violence, you're being a bigoted racist shithead. I am totally opposed to all forms of religion, including Islam. I could go on at length about the problems with Islam and how privileging religion in general sets up exactly the sorts of cultures where radical extremism can flourish.

But refugees from a war-torn nation fleeing for their lives from radical religious wackaloons is NOT the time for philosophical debate on the pros and cons of ideologies. Now is the time for compassion for human fucking beings who are being tortured and killed and who are asking for our help.  Our first priority is to help them as fellow human beings, to protect their lives and their dignity as people. Only then, when their survival is not at stake and their dignity as sentient beings is not being attacked, do we have the ethical high ground for addressing their ideologies in an intellectual debate. 
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Listening to people justify giving romantic partners full access* to each other's phones & emails in the aftermath of a broken trust in order to rebuild that trust. Saying that because someone did something related to texting that was "against their rules", it sucks, but it might be a necessary way to regain the trust of the person who was betrayed.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

If someone has broken an agreement or betrayed the trust of the other person, giving someone full access to things that DON'T BELONG TO ONLY THE PERSON IN THE COUPLE IN QUESTION is not acceptable. Texts and other communication owned by the "betrayer" are not their sole property. Those communiques (and, more importantly, the thoughts and intimacy they contain) also belong to the person who sent them. You are not sharing something that is private to the person who broke the rule, you are sharing something that is private of someone who is not in the relationship where the broken trust occurred.

By insisting on full access to the communications of a third party, you are pawning off the burden of repairing your broken trust onto that third party. The *third person* is the one who has to shoulder the responsibility for the "betrayer's" actions and for the "betrayed's" fear. And not just that person who participated in whatever action constitutes a "betrayal", but ALL third parties who might communicate with the "betrayer" in that manner - every single person has to give up their own privacy (and potentially hamper their own intimacy, even platonic and familial ones) to assuage the "betrayed" and fix this now "broken" relationship. All friends, all family, even all future partners (for those in open relationships) have to pay for what the "betrayer" and some other person did.

If your relationship is now "broken" and you are trying to rebuild trust between the two of you, it is your ethical responsibility to find a way to work through that pain and fear in a way that makes the two of YOU shoulder the entire burden for the work involved. It is not ethically right to violate the privacy and intimacy of people who are not in your relationship, who did not break any agreements (because they didn't make those agreements with you since they are not your partner), and who are not trying to rebuild any broken trust with you. New metamours may be trying to *build* trust with you, but they should not have added onto their load the responsibility of *REbuilding* the trust that someone else broke.

If you are choosing to put the work into this relationship so that you can eventually trust your partner again, that is your choice and you need to shoulder the burdens of your own fears regarding your partner's lack of trustworthiness. I'm not saying it doesn't suck. I'm saying it's YOUR burden to carry. All too often, poly people carry into polyamory with them bad habits from monogamy that go unchallenged in monogamous culture.

Until the industrial revolution, and really until WWI, marriage was not considered the One Relationship To Rule Them All.  In fact, just the opposite.  Philosophical treatises were written and sermons were preached condoning the act of making one's spouse the sole source of all types of support.  People were expected to find emotional, financial, labor, and sometimes even sexual support from all manner of relationships other than their spouse.  Placing one's spouse in a position of one's Everything was considered to be an affront to God himself because it was seen as replacing God with a human being.  Men and women were expected to have strong emotional ties to people of the same gender, and in some eras, those ties were expected to be stronger than the ties to one's spouse.  Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family in general were expected to live under the same roof, or at least nearby, to help with the labor of running a household and raising children.  One's pastor or preacher was expected to carry the burden of one's religious commitments and spiritual support.  And, in certain eras and locations, sex with one's spouse was considered a necessity for procreation but sex for pleasure was expected to be saved for one's lovers.  It was considered "unseemly" to be "too in love" or too infatuated or too attracted to one's own spouse.  That wasn't their role.

But then, somewhere along the line, mainly about the time that the industrial cities took over as holding the bulk of the population, all that changed.  With famine and war, people left the countryside in droves and flooded the urban centers, leaving behind extended family, generational churches, and best friends.  The nuclear family took over because single adults left their entire network behind to make a living in the big cities and started raising families alone, while existing families could often only pack up themselves (the spouses and kids) to search for a "better life" in the city, again leaving behind their support networks.  Suddenly, spouses HAD to become one's Everything because all they had was each other.

Although the U.S. has made attempts to build other sorts of networks from the wreckage the Urban Influx left on the old-style networks, the nuclear family and the myth of the One reigns supreme.  We have elevated the role of the spouse (and by extension, any singular romantic partner) to such a degree that people, even those of us conscientious objectors who ought to know better, can't even see the ethical dilemma with privileging one role above all others.  When faced with questions like "should your spouse have unrestricted access to your text messages", we don't even blink an eye when we shout "of course!"  That's not even a question for most people - it's taken for granted that spouses would share everything.  Even those things that don't belong to the other spouse to share.  It's written into marriage vows.  It's part of the cultural fabric.  And if some third party would dare to suggest that this thing here doesn't belong solely to the spouse in question to be giving permission to access, it's just flat out assumed that the romantic primary couple has "priority" so of course anything belonging even in part to the spouse belongs entirely to the spouse and simultaneously belongs to the other spouse.  Requests for privacy are seen as direct challenges to the primacy of the couple.

Personally, if my romantic relationship isn't strong enough to accommodate for individual privacy, I would say that the relationship isn't as "primary" as one would think.  The specialness and strength of my relationships and of my role within those relationships comes from the connection itself which is comprised of the individuals that make up the relationship, and nothing can take that away short of the individuals themselves.  Including the rights of the individual within the relationships.  Once the rights and integrity and very personhood of the individuals within the relationship are seen as less important than the relationship itself, the relationship is inherently doomed because the foundation of the relationship is the individuals in it.

So no one has "unrestricted access" or "full access" to those paths of intimacy, including communication, that involve anyone other than the two of us on that path together.  Some of my partners and metamours may have emergency access, but that is not "full access" or "unrestricted access".  Attempting to access the communications and therefore possible paths of intimacy of my other partners and loved ones is seen as a boundary violation, both my own boundaries and those of the other people, by the one doing the accessing.  It is understood that the wrongdoing here is in the accessing of data, not in the keeping of privacy.

When I was a teenager, my sister used to sneak into my room and steal my clothing and my cassette tapes.  No amount of shouting or sneaking into her room to steal them back would stop her.  I begged my parents for a lock on my door to keep her out.  They responded that a locked door would enable me to hide things from THEM, and as my parents, they had a right to access every space in the house, including my space.  I had no right to privacy as their daughter living on their property.  These are the kinds of assumptions that we bring with us into poly relationships - property and ownership of other people - their bodies and their minds.


As a child, I knew this was wrong.  As an adult, I know now why.  This is a violation of my very autonomy, the thing that makes me a person.  So, in my romantic relationships I can leave the metaphorical door unlocked because everyone knows that opening that door without an emergency-based reason would harm the relationship between myself and the person who opened that door.  My partners are not children or pets who can't be trusted to stay out of my room, nor are they overprotective parents who think that I am not entitled to my own autonomy.  Should I ever feel the need or the desire to lock my door, my partners understand that it's my room to lock and they didn't have a right to access that space anyway.  But, because they understand this, I can leave the door unlocked for safety purposes and everything that anyone gives me that I keep in that room is safe from anyone else getting to it.

I understand the desire to infringe on someone else's rights in order to make the bad feelings go away.  I understand how scary it is to shoulder my own burdens in a relationship where there is fear, insecurity, and broken trust.  I've been there, I've done that.  To this day, I may feel a strong enough fear to prompt me to ask to violate someone's boundaries for my own comfort.  But the key is that I do not assume it is my right to do so, and I must shoulder the burden myself to do the work on repairing the broken trust and calming that fear.  The allure of making someone else carry one's own burden is strong.  It will take everyone's effort to stand up to that allure and to create a culture that does not support the violation of other people's boundaries, privacy, and intimacy in service to our own fears and pain.



* By "full access", I do not mean that one *must* keep a lock on their phone and *never* show any texts to one's partner.  My phone doesn't even have a lock because it's a dumb flip phone, and I have a shared document online with passwords and other instructions for access to my files in the event of emergencies where someone else needs to run my life on my behalf.  But my partners have no interest in accessing my data short of an emergency, and everyone who communicates with me has a reasonable expectation that what they say to me will be held in confidence if they ask for it.  When they communicate with me, they know that they are communicating *with me*.  They do not have to communicate with me under the assumption that they are also communicating or sharing with someone else.  Assuming that all communications will be shared with someone else creates a built-in filter that hampers and infringes on the intimacy we can build together because they can only build as much intimacy with me as they are willing to build with this other person who will have access to that intimacy.

Partners who ask for "full access", in this context, are not asking for pragmatic, emergency-based access, nor do they technically have access but a lack of interest in accessing data.  Those are different situations and one that I am not addressing, so please don't derail the comments with "I can read my husband's texts because we trust each other but I don't because I don't care / we trust each other."  That's not what I'm talking about.  "Full access", in this context, is when one partner is suspected (or known) of possible relationship agreement violations and the other partner deliberately goes into their data (or wants the ability to do so) in order to check up on them.  They either want to police their activity like a child who can't be trusted to do their homework without the teacher sending home a homework sheet that the parents check off every night, or they want the threat of checking their activity to act as a deterrent to prevent their partner from misbehaving.

And these people will justify their actions or their request to violate privacy on the grounds that their partner has already proven that they can't be trusted, therefore punitive and corrective action is necessary.  That or if an infidelity of some kind hasn't actually happened, they will hand-wave away their violations with things like "if he's not hiding anything, then it shouldn't matter if I have access" and other hand-wavy justifications like the ones my parents used to deny me a lock on my door, which all have the underlying root of couple privilege and ownership.  It's not about "hiding" things, it's about treating partners as adults who have the right to make their own decisions (even bad ones), and about respecting the autonomy of both partners and third parties, AND about carrying one's own relationship burdens and responsibilities without pawning the work off onto someone else.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
In response to some comments I have seen on several other people's threads where they shared that graphic trying to explain that no one *owes* you their time, attention, love, sex, relationship, thoughts, etc. these blog posts are relevant.

Discussions about agency and abuse in relationships tend to get sidetracked by the minutia and strawman arguments of people pursuing *selfish* (i.e. not self-centric, but selfISH where it requires a lack of concern for how one's actions affect others) hedonism. In other words, there is some defense of "but if the other person is doing things for their own pleasure and it hurts you, that's not OK!" Of course it's not, but that's a different discussion.

"This is my experience. You can not know my experience.
That is your experience. I can not know your experience.
These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them.
Those are your choices. I am not entitled to control over them, I am not victimized by them."

"When we really understand the difference between these statements, we will understand how to support both survivors and abusers.

'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control.'
"

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-community-response-to-abuse.html

And then in the article they reference:

"“An abuser’s behavior is primarily conscious — he acts deliberately rather than by accident or by losing control of himself — but the underlying thinking that drives his behavior is largely not conscious.”

What is this underlying thinking? Well, it’s all around you. It is the foundation of rape culture. It is the fundamental belief that women do not have a right to their own personal power. It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices. It is the way in which we punish women if we feel they’ve stepped out of line. It is the way we always suspiciously ask “what is she getting out of this?” when a woman reports abuse, harassment or assault. It is the reflexive dismissal of female anger as irrational, and female pain as imaginary. It is the way we, all of us, men and women buy into the belief that we are entitled to women’s bodies, thoughts and choices. In polyamory, this belief makes it easy for us to treat our partners as things and not people
."

https://medium.com/@sheaemmafett/abuse-in-polyamorous-relationships-d13e396c8f85

This part is relevant because most of the objection to that graphic is in the idea that someone just has the *right* to go off and do whatever they want to do. OMG what is the world coming to that anyone can just LEAVE whenever they want?!? What if I don't want them to go?!?

"It is the fundamental belief that they can retain power over their bodies, minds and choices, only so long as we agree with those choices". It doesn't matter if we think they are making a poor choice for themselves. It doesn't matter if we are hurt by their choice to leave us, stop loving us, not liking us, revoking consent to sex with us.

They do, in fact, have that right. They might be behaving like dicks about it, but they still have that right. If someone gets involved in an explicitly monogamous relationship and then decides to have an unsanctioned sexual relationship with someone outside of that relationship, their monogamous partner does not own their body and they have the right to do with their own body what they will.

They're being a dick and I will harshly criticize and name-call and publicly shame people for making choices that infringe on other people's right to consent. *That* is not what they have the right to do. The choice to *remain* in an explicitly monogamous relationship without giving their partner the information necessary to give informed consent is what they don't have the right for. But they, and they alone, hold the rights to what happens to their own body and mind.

That graphic does not address the content of the person's character when it says a person has the right to leave, to not love, to stop loving, etc. It only addresses the one seeking to exert control over that person trying to leave.

"Understand, that when your reasons for disrespecting the boundary become more important than the boundary itself, you are displaying a belief of superiority, entitlement and control, and these beliefs are the foundation of a culture that tolerates rape and abuse."

"But what if…
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter whether it was unjust. It doesn’t matter if it hurt you. It doesn’t matter in reference to whether or not you respect the boundary. It’s their right to set the boundary because they are a whole and complete and autonomous human being. When you don’t respect the boundary, you are telling them in no uncertain terms, that you think that they are less than this.

But…
No.
"

http://emmfett.blogspot.com/2014/11/how-to-respect-boundaries.html

Yep, it absolutely sucks to have someone want to leave a relationship that you want to keep. It absolutely sucks to have feelings for someone who doesn't reciprocate. It absolutely sucks to have a partner make partner selection choices that involve other partners who do not respect your own relationship with the mutual partner. They are still allowed to make their own decisions about their own body, mind, and emotions, just as you are allowed to make your own decisions about your own body, mind, and emotions, including whether or not to remain connected to someone whose choices result in your pain.
joreth: (Nude Drawing)
There is a special, sweet tension that comes with unresolved sexual attraction. There are several people I feel a strong sexual draw towards, whose personalities or other traits make them incompatible with me for any category of sexual partner - from one-night stands to full on Partners. Knowing this, I choose not to act on these feelings, not even to discover if they are returned, to avoid what will inevitably be a much more uncomfortable situation as the incompatibilities play out to a predictable conclusion. I would tell them honestly, if they ever wanted to know, but I have not been given any indication that they are curious, so I don't offer.

Actually, I find it increases the acuteness of the tension when we both are aware of the attraction and of the fact that it can't be acted on. The flirting takes on more nuance and is much richer when that happens. But many people find that knowing someone is attracted to them when a reciprocal relationship is unavailable (either because they're not interested back, or they are but I won't agree to one anyway) to be awkward enough to avoid wanting to know about it. Out of consideration for social mores, I generally choose not to reveal my interest in someone if I'm not at least willing to consider acting on it should they be so inclined. I don't like making people feel uncomfortable around me unless discomfort is my goal (I'm looking at you, misogynists, racists, & PUAs). Anyway, so I am attracted to certain people while simultaneously being repelled by the situation that acting on that attraction would create. Feeling this ambiguity creates a sense of tension that I have come to enjoy in a similar way to how people who like the pain of eating spicy food seem to enjoy that particular torture. Which makes my day when I have to work with one or more of those people very ... flavorful.

One of the effects of being able to experience physical attraction to people without requiring some kind of emotional or intellectual connection is that one might be attracted to someone who is not a suitable romantic partner of some stripe or another. And being attracted TO someone is not the same thing as finding someone attractIVE. I am perfectly capable of appreciating the aesthetics of a person without wanting to fuck them, or have some other sexual encounter with them. I find all kinds of things aesthetically pleasing, like architecture and sunsets and kittens, without wanting to have sex with them even a little bit.

The same goes for people. As a matter of fact, this created quite the dilemma for me just after puberty. As a photographer and an artist (although my proclivities in this area were as yet unrealized back then), I found lots of women attractIVE. Unfortunately, in the era and area in which I grew up, I was pressured by individuals and the culture at large to interpret this pleasure at seeing the female form as a *sexual* attraction, and I identified as bisexual for a few years. It wasn't until I actually started having sex with women that I was able to recognize a distinct difference in my attraction for women vs. my attraction for men - namely that I had no attraction *towards* women, just an *appreciation* for them. But, I digress.

Anyway, because I don't need to have some kind of emotional or intellectual connection to a person in order to develop sexual feelings for them, I can find myself desiring to have some kind of sex with a person who really isn't someone I ought to have a sexual relationship with. It could be that they don't feel any attraction in return. Or it could be that I might want a different style of relationship than they are interested or willing to engage in. Or it could be that they would be willing to have casual sex with me, but would then develop contemptible feelings towards me as a female willing to have casual sex because they have internalized the misogyny of our culture's attitudes about sex. Or it could be that they would be more than willing to have a relationship with me but they are not capable of having a healthy poly relationship (which is non-negotiable with me) and are either not able or not willing to do the work necessary to eventually reach that place. I am not a beginner relationship. If you aren't ready for the hard, advanced work, a relationship with me will be more struggle than pleasure and I do not believe in maintaining relationships whose risk-reward ratio is skewed towards the risk instead of the rewards.

It could also be something on my end. There are lots of traits that people can have that I find very off-putting, and I have discovered through trial and error that ignoring how the first rush of NRC (usually referred to as NRE) can make me overlook those things in the beginning always, and without fail, results in me developing contempt or disgust for my partner when that NRC wears off and my natural dislike of the trait reasserts itself. So, for instance, smoking; I absolutely hate smoking. I hate the taste, I hate the smell, I resent the addiction, and I tend to think less of people who are willing to harm their bodies in this way. I might be able to downplay all of these reactions in the beginning when I'm running on happy brain chemicals, but eventually my dislike of smoking will overcome the waning NRC. And as we know, contempt is the biggest predictor of a relationship's demise. I would rather remain friends with someone and maintain some platonic friendly emotional boundaries around them than engage in a relationship that will eventually trigger my contempt or disgust even though these negative feelings would be merely one of many feelings including many positive ones.

So I sit here, contemplating the tug-of-war going on between my body's sexual attraction and my brain's reminder that this will not end well, while a detached part of me watches all this going on and enjoys the tension it produces. It took me a long time to understand, accept, and lean into this tension. And it's still a balancing act - swing too far to one side and it reverts to that unrequited ache of a teenage crush (with a bit of self-doubt just to mix things up) but swing too far to the other and the body's urges take over and make regrettable decisions. I'm reminded of a comment I once posted on More Than Two's Facebook page, that they liked well enough to reproduce as its own post. I've been meaning to post it myself, so as to archive it, and today's contemplations on the subject are as good a time as any:

"The truth is, sometimes you fall in love with someone who’s a terrible fit for you. In polyamory, sometimes you fall in love with someone whose partner is a terrible fit for you. And sometimes you are a wonderful partner for somebody in one stage of your lives, but then things change, and you find after five or ten or twenty years that you’re holding each other back instead of helping each other flourish. None of these necessarily come down to mistakes; they’re just things that can happen, because people are complicated." ~ Louisa Leontiades' book review of The Husband Swap.

That's why I love [livejournal.com profile] tacit's aphorism so much about how sometimes we can really and truly love someone and still not make a good partner for them. We have to be able to see the end of a relationship as separate from the failure of a relationship and we have to be able to see that our feelings for people are not the same thing as our compatibility with those people.

The whole *point* of polyamory is to consciously design relationship structures that work for the people in them that break away from the "traditional" model. As long as we're admitting that the Flintstones model doesn't work for everyone, why stop there? Why not question everything about relationships, including the assumption that they're supposed to be forever, or that they're supposed to "be" at all.

The thing that liberated me from the devastating misery that is the unrequited crush (that, as a nerdy, bullied girl, was the majority of my early romantic experiences and the source of much later anguish and self-doubt) was the internalized acceptance that I could have feelings and that was all they had to be. I could love someone, or crush on them, or admire them, or have the hots for them, and the end goal for those feelings was to simply have them. *Doing* anything about those feelings, for example: pursuing a relationship, was a *different* issue. They might be related, but they are a *different* answer to a totally different question.

It's not "I have feelings, therefore...", it's "I have feelings - full stop." It's not even about not acting on the feelings. I'm not suggesting that we don't act. I'm suggesting that acting is *separate* from feeling. Fully recognizing that, perhaps ironically, opens up the possibilities for acting to include more choices. More choices, which might have more options for "success", if we define "success" as "the participants are happy / satisfied / fulfilled with the outcome of their choices" rather than merely "lived together until one of them died."

This is all a very highbrow, analytical, navel-gazing, philosophical essay to say, basically, that I lust after some people I know, including some coworkers, but who would make totally unsuitable partners, so I am not acting on my attraction, but I am enjoying the lustful feelings when I see those people.  If you have not yet learned how to lean into your discomforting feelings, such as desiring someone who doesn't desire you back or who would not make a suitable partner for you, I highly recommend learning how to do this.  In addition to merely removing the discomfort (and / or the drama that comes with poor partner selection), it also creates a new sensation to enjoy.  It takes a lot of practice and a lot of work on the self-esteem to do it, but it's totally worth it.
joreth: (Dobert Demons of Stupidity)
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/10/02/before-you-claim-the-ucc-shooting-was-about-christian-persecution-consider-all-the-evidence/

This supports the comments I've been making about this issue - that the culture around Those Assholes* is the important factor, and the ideology merely focuses the targets for them. The underlying motivations for these sorts of tragedies are toxic masculinity, entitlement, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders. That's what they all have in common. They are ticking time bombs, all they need is some ideology to point them in a direction.

Even if this guy *was* truly atheist, and not one of those pathetic "I am chaos, the Devil bows before me" poser jackasses who chose Christians just because they have the most power in this country so they make the most high profile targets (and therefore are guaranteed to grant him the celebrity status he so obviously desires), we have that same dark underbelly in our own subculture. We have those same dark alleys of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders and violence.

Those dark alleys have been spilling out their filth over the last several years. They're the reason I now identify as Feminist. I was one of those irritating Chill Girls who thought the gender wars were largely over and we had won, so I didn't need feminism. Until I joined the atheist community. Then I saw how bad misogyny still is and how much of it still reigns in our culture. That's how I became a labeled Feminist. Atheists turned me into a big-F Feminist.

If this guy really is an atheist targeting Christians, I won't pull the No True Scotsman card. Atheists can be assholes and atheists can be Assholes. Any woman who dares to criticize atheists on any topic, but particularly gaming, knows this, especially those women who have been forced from their homes because of the public threats of violence. This is why Atheism+ was born and why, even those who didn't jump on the + bandwagon are fighting from within our own ranks to clean up our atheosphere metaphorical "streets" of these dark alleys and the disturbing elements they produce.

But it sounds more and more likely that he wasn't atheist, and that he targeted Christians for their publicity power. Which brings us right back to the original point, that what those asshole atheists and Those Assholes, and This Asshole specifically, have in common is a deeply ingrained sense of entitlement, toxic masculinity, and the glorification and celebritization of violent offenders.

Gun Rights proponents like to trot out countries with high gun ownership, low gun restrictions, and still low gun violence. The *reason* why those nations exist like that is because their culture is different. They don't have the same entitlement and toxic masculinity permeating their culture. Sure "guns don't kill people, people kill people", but those people are products of their culture.

I was raised in liberal-but-rural California where guns were not glorified, but necessary for hunting. Guns were weapons to be treated with respect. They were not part of our identities, but tools - dangerous tools - to be used with caution and limitations. I was raised in a culture that does not produce mass shooters, racism, or the idea that violence is a solution to anything.

I was also raised in gang-ridden urban California, where guns were glorified as a status symbol and a means to power. I was within the physical boundaries of that culture, but I was apart from it, thanks to my family. I knew of children, my own peers, who had been caught in gang wars. I even dated someone who had been removed from the entire school district because he threatened violence on a teacher (which he gleefully admitted at the time). Violence was all around me and my family. Both of us - my family members and the gang members in my neighborhoods - had access to guns. One of us thought guns were a solution and the other saw them as a tool. Guess which of us has a higher incarceration rate for violent offenses?

The *culture* needs to be changed. And until it can be changed, it shouldn't have easy access to weapons. As a child, guns were kept out of my hands until I could understand and respect them properly. I was handling guns at a very young age, because I could understand. But my father would never have handed a loaded weapon to a 2-year old. He introduced them to me as I was able to understand and respect their inherent danger. Apparently, we need to treat our nation as a toddler prone to temper tantrums with no control and no higher cognitive functioning. You can't have the guns until you understand and respect their inherent danger. When you understand that, like your older sibling - the countries who don't have the same violent glorification tendencies - perhaps you can have them back.

I won't pretend to know which, specific, policies will effect the change I'm talking about. I am not an expert on legal policy, so I'm not proposing specific restrictions because I don't know which ones will work. What I do know is that the evidence increasingly shows it's the culture that's prompting these shootings. It's our *culture*. It's *our* culture. We need to stop promoting toxic masculinity, stop excusing entitlement and start owning up to it when we have it so that we can work on dismantling it, and stop turning these shooters into fucking celebrities. Regardless of their specific ideologies that chooses their targets for them, they choose acts of violence because they think it's a good thing to display anger and aggression and violence as signs of their masculinity and that this version of masculinity is something desirable. They choose acts of violence because they feel entitled to remove other people's agency. They choose acts of violence because they crave the fame, the notoriety and WE FUCKING GIVE IT TO THEM.

They achieve their goals. They choose acts of violence because they're fucking successful. And they're successful because we have given them a clear path to their success. WE have. Our culture. Our society. We gave them exactly what they wanted. The number of people they kill, whether they "get away" with it or not, that's all irrelevant. They've asserted their dominance and commanded our attention. They are successful. *We* are the ones who need to change because we are their final targets.

As an atheist, if any mass shooter is actually atheist, I fight to change our atheist culture so that we stop producing Those Assholes from within, not denying that they exist, not distancing myself from the responsibility of the culture that produced them. I don't see the gun nuts doing the same. I don't see men (who aren't already feminists or feminist allies and therefore largely shunned from masculine culture anyway) doing the same. I don't see theists doing the same when it's one of their own. 4-chan, PUA circles, Southern Pride groups - these types of groups are the tinder for these firebombs.

Our larger culture that excuses rape, excuses casual racism, excuses religious posturing, excuses homophobia and transphobia, excuses any sort of dehumanization, objectification, othering, and the removing of agency - our larger culture gives places for these cesspools to thrive and fester. Just like the guy who doesn't actually agree with rape but who laughs at rape jokes so that the rapist standing next to him thinks they are allies, our culture provides the hiding places for those among us who would do such harm. Our culture built those alleyways and is refusing to install safety lights. It's time to root out the dark places, and that starts with us.



*Those Assholes or That Asshole is the term I use in place of the name of any violent offender, as doing my individual part to deny them the celebrity status that is one of the main goals for their actions.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
One of the things that bugs me about the "why should burger flippers get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" argument is that it implies that there are people who deserve a living wage and people who don't. It ranks human beings into Worthy Of Survival and Not Worthy Of Survival and it categorizes these people, not on their character or how they behave in society, but on what kind of job they managed to obtain at this one particular point in their lives - a job, I'll remind you, that is one you would definitely notice if everyone who held that job suddenly stopped.

Because, you see, the only people who are making the assumption that demanding a living wage is reserved for one category of people (burger flippers) and not another (soldiers) are the people who think it's appropriate to rank those categories in the first place.

The people demanding the living wage are not saying other people should make less, or even equally low amounts. It's like the ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ crowd - we're highlighting one group who gets shit on because they need that attention right now but it doesn't mean that other lives don't matter. Those of us in support of living wages are not also prohibiting increases for those who already make living wages. "This guy deserves to feed himself and pay rent for working 40 hours a week" is not an argument that leads to or includes "but those guys don't." That is, as a matter of fact, the argument against living wages.

So why should a "burger flipper get $15 an hour when soldiers don't?" (Ignoring whether "soldiers don't" is even true for now). Why should they? I dunno, you tell me, since I'm not the one claiming they should. The question isn't why should one class of people get paid better than another class of people who are doing work that I value more. If that were the question, I'd be ranting about sports salaries vs. teachers, not talking about living wages. The real question here is why *anyone* should be allowed to starve to death or lose one's home when they're willing to put in as many hours as we collectively think is necessary for being "productive" in order to justify keeping those doing the work we *do* value at proportionally low wages.

If so-called "burger flippers" are making better benefits and pay than soldiers, then the people you ought to be mad at are the ones who decided to pay soldiers so little, not those who want to pay "burger flippers" enough to survive, since those paying the soldiers so little are the ones ranking human lives and compensation, not the people who give a shit about everyone being able to survive.
joreth: (Swing Dance)

Those of you who don't follow me on Facebook might not know about the Orlando Ballroom Dance Party Portal.  It's a website intended to encourage social partner dancing in the Orlando area, but it also has some good resources for general social partner dancing - like the playlists.  Every day on Facebook, there is the Song Of The Day - a post that highlights a particular song by linking to the YouTube video for it and suggesting a style of partner dancing suitable to dance to that song as well as linking to a related page on the website with the history and description of that dance style.  I repost all those music videos on my personal FB page but it's not on Twitter or Google Plus yet, so I haven't been reposting there because I could only link back to the FB account.  But the point here is that this week highlighted a song popular among the neo-swing culture called Zoot Suit Riot by Cherry Poppin' Daddies.  Some of you may have heard of it.




There is some interesting history behind the Zoot Suit Riot that is related to the ‪#‎SwingDance‬ culture that the zoot suits were a part of. Many people don't take the time to really listen to the lyrics and just enjoy the bouncy swing of the song, but it's actually about a very racially charged time in US history.

The basic story of the song is during a time when Mexicans in California were experiencing a lot of racism during WWII. White soldiers and sailors began assaulting Mexicans for what they perceived as a lack of patriotism in spite of the fact that Mexicans were over-represented in the military during the war, simply because of their attire (the zoot suits). In the media, these zoot suits became a symbol and a target of the racial tension and hatred by white servicemen. This lead to a series of riots that targeted Latino youths, and this song is about those Latinos taunting soldiers about to go overseas as sort of a rallying song supporting marginalized people.

As a Mexican American who grew up in California, this song has always struck a particular nerve with me because the racism that led to the riots was never eradicated. As a middle class white-passing Mexican in the '80s and '90s, I didn't bear the brunt of it like some of my more clearly ethnic neighbors did, but I saw it and I felt it.

My own grandfather (who was a teen & young man in the '40s and himself racist) refused to attend my parents' wedding because my mother is Mexican and his objections were things like he didn't want her Mexican family hanging around his neighborhood because the neighbors would see a bunch of hoodlums and thugs with their low-rider cars and Chicano clothes and Spanish language.

I was fortunate enough to not have to personally experienced any race riots, but I wasn't terribly far from where some happened in the '80s and '90s, and the culture I grew up in sprang from some very terrible historical riots that happened right in my own town and the racial repercussions reverberated through the generations.

So I very much understand the rage and frustration that can lead to an entire group of people doing things like taunting soldiers and burning their own neighborhoods. When everything is taken from you - your dignity, your money, your ability to succeed, your children, even your voice, all you have left is the rage to get the attention of your oppressors. Sometimes that rage turns inward, sometimes it turns outward, and sometimes it gets expressed in ways that people who don't feel it, who aren't subject to its causes, don't see as productive.

But, although it may seem to be self-harming in the moment, the long view of history shows that this rage and its expressions are what lead to change. Because the people comfortable at the top can't hear you when you ask politely. They only take notice when you scream at the top of your lungs and break things.

For more information on the Zoot Suit Riots, visit the wikipedia page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoot_Suit_Riots, and while you're there, you might want to fall down the rabbit hole of wiki links that talk about all the related stuff like pachucos and the arrest that kicked the riots off.

joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I get one of the reasons why I lose my temper online, and I'll try to expand later (but right now I'm running late, as usual). The things I post are about people's subjective experience, their personal autonomy, their personhood, and their dignity. These things are not up for debate.

Yet people treat the posts in my feed as though it's a stage where two equal ideas with equal merit are to be weighed and considered. The counterpoint to the stuff that I post about does not deserve to share a stage with the stuff I post about. They do not deserve equal time, equal consideration.

My rage is part frustration that I'm not being heard and I'm not making myself understood, and it's also the sheer horror that anyone could even think that these topics are up for debate in the first place.

I post things for people's education and information. Which means that people need to *learn*. Learning involves listening, not talking back. People's autonomy, personhood, dignity, subjective experiences, the right to exist - these things are not up for debate, and if you think they are, you're a horrible person and I will not host a platform that helps spread your position. The Flat Earth "theory" does not deserve to share the stage with real science and rejection of other people as people does not deserve the same stage as respect for those people.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
"He immediately made a real effort to put himself in the shoes of others. It's just that he had trouble first taking off his own shoes. "

This is from an article that I'll be writing about later, but this sentence, out of context, is important. This is about empathy.

One of the biggest problems I encounter in other people is empathy - they are not able to put themselves in someone else's shoes. What happens, is that they imagine *themselves* in whatever situation we're talking about and conclude that they'd do things totally different *because they're themselves*. They have different feelings, different priorities, different experiences that all add up to different conclusions.

That doesn't help to see things from another perspective. When not-poor people give me financial advice, as I was saying in a previous post on FB about it, they give me advice from their own perspective - the one that says that there is enough money hanging around to open up that savings account or to count on coming in regularly enough to pay for health insurance or to buy those $75 boots that will last longer instead of the $10 boots for right now.

"Well, if *I* were in that position, I'd do..." No. It's not if *you* were in that position, it's if *you* were *them* in that position. They can't put themselves in the shoes of others because they can't take off their own shoes first. They keep putting *themselves* in someone else's situation.

And I'm *quite* certain that I do this too. After all, we're not talking about literally taking on and off shoes here. Removing our own expectations, perceptions, experiences, memories, and personalities isn't just difficult, it's often impossible. Sometimes, the best we can do is to just recognize that someone else is different, and their experience of the world will not match our own. Sometimes, all we can do is just *believe* them when they tell us how they are experiencing something, and feel compassion for them. We need to try to take our own shoes off in order to try their shoes on, and if we can't, then we just need to look at their shoes and say "yep, those are your shoes, and I hear what you're saying about them."

And that's empathy.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/08/things-wish-known-gaslighting/

Awesome article just got republished on Everyday Feminism​ by a terrific online blogger I discovered a year or two ago, Shea Emma Fett​:


"Gaslighting does not require deliberate plotting. Gaslighting only requires a belief that it is acceptable to overwrite another person’s reality."

"The distinguishing feature between someone who gaslights and someone who doesn’t is an internalized paradigm of ownership."

"Gaslighting Doesn’t Always Involve Anger or Intimidation"

"Losing spots in your memory makes it very plausible when someone tells you that they cannot trust your memory. It makes it very plausible when they tell you that you are abusive."


I once knew someone who was abusing his partner, and I knew the partner as well, but I didn't see the abuse. Because I couldn't see the abuse, I unwittingly enabled it, for which I feel deeply ashamed and guilty to this day. That guilt is a good deal why I write about abuse so much more now - to prevent anyone else from unknowingly enabling abuse.

One of the ways in which I enabled the abuse is because of this principle. As a skeptic, I am fully aware of how fallible our memories are. This often leads me to demanding proof before believing something. When it comes to real-but-invisible things like abuse or oppression, that's a dangerous mindset to have.

This abuser that I knew also considered himself a skeptic. So, naturally, we shared an understanding in the fallibility of memory. In fact, his memory was so fallible, that if it didn't exist in pictures or a chat log, his brain would erase the memory all together.

So, when he said that his partner was remembering things wrong, I saw no reason to contradict him. Of course she was remembering things wrong - we all remember things wrong! Except in this case, he wasn't being scientifically pedantic about memory, he was using her natural fallibility to *rewrite history* and therefore erode her own sense of self.

I remember one time in particular when she even came to me and told me that he was doing this. I had been in full protect-my-sister-empathize-with-her-fully mode, but then she brought up the memory thing. I instantly backpedaled and tried to "explain" that he wasn't gaslighting her, he was just being a good skeptic by reminding her of the fallibility of memory.

If I could go back in time and smack myself upside the head when I said this, I would. This was the equivalent of "oh, he didn't mean anything by it! He's harmless! You shouldn't feel creeped out by him inappropriately touching you!" I'm still working on the balance between scientific accuracy of how memory works and supporting victims of abuse. I have not mastered this trick yet.


"Change should make you bigger. It should increase your tank of self-love. It should make you stronger, clearer, more directed, more differentiated, and more compassionate. The pain of growth is different than the pain of destruction. One will fill you with love and pride, even when it’s hard, and the other will fill you with shame and fear."

"It’s ridiculous when someone tries to tell you who you are, what you feel, what you think, what you intended, or what you experienced. When it happens, you should be angry, puzzled, or maybe even concerned for them."

"You can solve a lot of things with communication, so long as the objective of both people is understanding. But the minute someone tries to replace your experience, it’s time to stop communicating, at least on that subject."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Bren-Brown-Rising-Strong-Excerpt

"Storytelling helps us all impose order on chaos—including emotional chaos. When we're in pain, we create a narrative to help us make sense of it. This story doesn't have to be based on any real information. One dismissive glance from a coworker can instantly turn into I knew she didn't like me."

Some of us do this all the time, don't we? It's implicit in the Passive Communication technique that some of us are taught, some of us do naturally, and women in general are expected to use (either we are told we should communicate that way, or we are assumed to communicate that way and our statements aren't taken at face value by people who hear them and assume there's some other intent).

"They can recognize their own confabulations and challenge them. The good news is that we can rewrite these stories. We just have to be brave enough to reckon with our deepest emotions. "

It was pointed out in the commentary from the post where I got this that we have to beware of putting too much emphasis on the consequences of storytelling, without addressing why we develop storytelling in the first place because we might end up giving too much shelter to manipulative behavior. I'm a huge fan of understanding the "why" of things.

Pointing out the consequences of storytelling is important because that's often how to get someone's attention and impress upon them why they need to change a behaviour. But it's also important to understand why someone is doing it in the first place. If the storytelling is a survival technique (you have to read into someone's words in order to anticipate their own passive communication so that you can modify your behaviour before the punishment happens, for instance), then altering the storytelling won't actually solve the underlying problem and, in fact, may make things worse.

I discovered that with the whole "girls don't respond to guys' OKC emails" thing - it turns out that girls get punished for responding even with good intentions if the response is not the one the guy feels entitled to. So I push for women to respond more often, but as long as women get socially punished for it, they're not going to listen to my advice. Society has to start punishing men for being entitled before women will feel brave enough to respond, or even to make first contact.

So the storytelling thing needs to be tempered with understanding the root causes. Yes, it's absolutely important to build a society in which people are less prone to storytelling and passive communication. But, as was pointed out, that assumes a baseline of good faith and direct communication on all people doing the communicating. So we also need to be aware of that baseline, which changes the course of action for what we should do when we learn to identify that we are, in fact, storytelling in this context.

But, y'know, examine your root causes for your emotional reactions. Barring manipulation, it'll make you a better communicator, a better partner, and a better person.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I know this will piss some people off, but I firmly believe that everyone has a right to not have sex with anyone they don't want to have sex with, for any reason they have, or no reason at all. Even if that reason is stupid. Even if that reason hurts someone's feelings. Even if I think that reason is so full of shit that I want to physically and literally knock some sense into them. They have a right to say no and they have a right to revoke consent at any time.

What they don't have a right to do is treat that person any differently in a non-sexual context than anyone else, or harm them in any way, or participate in a system that discriminates against them or any of that other bullshit. But that's not the issue. Those are good reasons not to disclose private information to people who are not sex partners and it's a good reason not to take on certain people as sex partners (with the added bonus that you don't have to disclose to them). It is *not* a good reason to manipulate someone into becoming a sex partner who would not consent to that role had they known.

"But we can't read minds to know all the possible things that all the people in the world might possibly make them not want to have sex with me!"

Strawman argument. There are things that we know by virtue of living in our cultures what people are *likely* to object to. Just like I know what Christianity is all about, and what the experience of being a white male out in society is all about, and what mono relationships are all about - even though #NotAllWhateverMajorityDemographic, I know enough about those demographics because I'm steeped in the expression of the experience of those demographics every fucking day of my life. I know that if some guy hits on me while I'm walking down the street, there is a greater-than-average chance that he won't like me *because* of my atheism, my polyamory, my feminism, my job, my independence, and my gender identity even though I'm really not that far away from cis. Those things all go contrary to the cultural narrative, so I'm pretty sure that at least one of them will be deal-breakers for the average guy who thinks it's appropriate to hit on me while walking down the street.

But, on the very off chance that he might like me precisely because of those things, or that maybe he won't mind those things, telling him about it up front will be a bonus. It'll give him even more reason to be interested in me. But that's such a statistically unlikely event that it has never once happened to me in all my years of being hit on by randos on the street.  Excuse me, not minding the atheism thing happened exactly once, but he was not American-born and he was from a country where religion isn't a big thing, so I don't think it's really an exception to my point.

Now, disclosing all that shit to street randos is not what I'm advocating either - that's a personal call regarding safety. But by the time I've decided to accept someone as a sexual partner, and he has accepted the idea of me as a sexual partner, I know there are certain things that he is, by pure numbers, likely to have a problem with and could affect his willingness to consent.  Most of those things are actually related to the act of sex itself and are not unreasonable to want to know, even if their reaction to that information or their beliefs about that information are, in my opinion, unreasonable.

What I absolutely do not want, as a small female person, is to find out *afterwards* that he would not have given consent by *him* finding out afterwards and thinking that I betrayed him. I've actually already had that happen to me and I count myself damn lucky that all I got away with was a hurt pride and some temporary embarrassment at being shoved out the front door without all my clothes on. I know all the excuses - this was just for fun and not some long-term relationship, if that was a deal-breaker for him then it was his responsibility to ask about it, blah blah blah.

I know how mainstream guys (and a lot of poly guys) feel about the idea of putting their dick in somewhere that some other dick has already (recently) been. Telling them up front that their dick isn't the only one is the best way I've found so far of only fucking the guys who won't beat me for it later, and being open about that in general is the best way I've found to locate guys who actually think it's pretty fucking cool that they're not the only ones.

When someone finds out after they have already had sex with someone whom they wouldn't have had sex with had they known what they found out later, it doesn't matter how "wrong" they are for not wanting to have sex. It doesn't matter how unjustified they are for feeling betrayed. It doesn't matter to the people they kill, or beat, or humiliate. Being "right" doesn't save them that beating, that death, that humiliation, that heartache, or that disappointment.  Knowing that the potential partner is that sort of person is the kind of information you want *before* you fuck them and not to find it out the hard way.

It didn't feel great when I had to disclose to people who I liked that I had an STD.  It really hurt my feelings to have people I cared about be so afraid of something based on stigma, and not facts, that they were afraid to even touch me non-sexually even though it wasn't something they could catch that way and it wasn't even something that was likely to harm them.  But it would have hurt them more to have sex with me without the information necessary to give informed consent.  It was more than just physically harming them, because I disclosed my STD long after I needed to, long after it wasn't possible to pass it on, just to make sure they understood sexual safety.  Not giving them that information would have been robbing them of their agency.  It would have been manipulative, and it would have been making decisions for them - deciding what they "needed to know" on their behalf based on what *I* felt about that information.  Sure, *I* knew that the STD wasn't likely to harm them, but that wasn't my call to make.  They have the right to refuse sex with me on any grounds and to make decisions for their own participation based on their own risk analysis, not mine.

If the information that you're hiding (even passively) isn't a big deal, then it shouldn't be a big deal to disclose. This goes along with the Little White Lies defenses & [livejournal.com profile] tacit's post on truth and virtue- if someone is defending the secret that hard, then it's clearly not "no big deal". Remember, this isn't a situation where one partner is demanding to know something that isn't relevant and is attempting to violate another's privacy. This is something that could *change someone's consent* for having sex with you.

If you can't trust the person you're about to get slippery with to handle the information that you're keeping secret, then this is probably not the safest person for you to be getting slippery with either. If you fear for your safety, then don't take them as a partner. You don't *have* to disclose anything that will make you unsafe, but if you're unsafe with this partner, then choosing them as a partner was your first mistake (assuming you, yourself, weren't coerced or forced into the encounter in the first place - this whole rant is aimed at consensual sexual arrangements, not abuse victims keeping secrets from their abusers to prevent further abuse - again, go back to the truth and virtue post) and keeping the secret is the second in a list of mistakes.

This is about two things - 1) respecting your partner's agency enough to give them the information necessary for them to give consent. You can't read their minds to know that they would revoke consent if they found out that you once masturbated to a poster of the New Kids On The Block when you were a kid and they have an irrational fear of cooties from Donny or whatever the fuck one of their names was, but you can know that there are certain kinds of information that is culturally important and likely to affect someone's willingness to fuck you if they knew about it (and if you don't know that person individually well enough to know their specific deal-breakers, you at least know those culturally likely deal-breakers). Your partners are human fucking beings and deserve to be treated with no less dignity and respect than allowing them to consent to sex with you and I can't fucking believe this still has to be said;

And 2) saving yourself either the repercussions of being found out later, or of being a person who is not your best self. Sure, it's possible that person may never find out, especially if it's a one-night stand in a strange town and you didn't exchange names or phone numbers and have no overlapping social circles or interests to ever run into them again, even on the internet. It's probably even likely. But *you* know that you will have acted with the best of intentions and the highest degree of integrity. *You* will have been a person who respects your partner's agency. *You* will have been the sort of person that you ultimately hope your partners would be for you - someone who does not take it upon themselves to decide on your behalf what information is "necessary" when it's actually something that you think is not only important, but reasonable to be informed about.

This isn't about degree of severity.  I have two analogies I often bring out in this debate - murder and jawalking aren't the same thing and don't deserve the same punishment, but both are against the law.  A creek isn't the same as the ocean, but both will get you wet if you step in them.  I'm not talking about whose the baddest, most evilest, most terrible person out there and I'm not talking about stringing people up by their toenails even for minor infractions.  The guy who didn't dislose his HIV and had unprotected sex with a bunch of people, giving them HIV? Yeah, he was a monster, and I'm not putting him in the same category as someone who has a sort-of sexual partner with no arrangement of exclusivity not disclosing that person to a one-night-stand in another country on a business trip.  But both are still examples of not disclosing information that not only could affect one's willingness to consent but is *likely* to.  Both are still examples of not respecting the other person's right to not have sex, one example just has much more dire consequences than the other.

I'm far less likely to make a personal value judgement about someone who says "I've done some things where I wasn't my best self. I know my justifications for them, and I may even slip and not be my best self in the future, but I know that this thing is not living up to my highest ideals of integrity," than someone who tries to justify their actions, digging in their heels and doubling down on preventing informed consent with excuses, selfish justifications of "privacy" and "not my responsibility" and "too much trouble / effort."  Someone who says "yeah, I torrent big blockbuster movies.  I know it's wrong, but I do it," isn't getting the same kind of judgement from me as someone who says "I don't care if you're a starving artist, you OWE the world, and consequently me, the right to use your art without being compensated for it." (That's a real example, btw, not a strawman and not hyperbole).  This isn't about degree.  It's about being your best self and by doing so, treating those around you with the dignity and respect that they deserve, especially those you engage intimately with.

If I want to live in a world where I, as a woman, have the right to say "no" for any reason whatsoever and no reason at all, if I want to live in a world where my body is completely mine and I have ultimate authority over what happens to it, then I have to make that world by defending other people's right to say "no", even if I disagree with their reasons, because it's *not my place* to decide the validity of someone else's reasons for saying "no".  If integrity were easy, everyone would do it all the time.

"Ben, there's a story eating at you ... one you know you gotta tell."

"Not that simple."

"Telling the truth is never simple... or easy. Why only the best of us ever really try."
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://tacit.livejournal.com/611774.html

Psychologists often talk about a quirk of human psychology called the fundamental attribution error. It's a bug in our firmware; we, as human beings, are prone to explaining our own actions in terms of our circumstance, but the actions of other people in terms of their character. The standard go-to example of the fundamental attribution error I use is the traffic example: "That guy just cut me off because he's a reckless, inconsiderate asshole who doesn't know how to drive. I just cut that car off because the sun was in my eyes and there was so much glare on the windshield I didn't see it."

We do this All. The. Time. We do it without being aware we're doing it. We do it countless times per day, in ways large and small.

For the last several years, since I first heard of this error, I've started catching myself when I, for instance, call people assholes on the road. I still do it, but in my head I remind myself that I'm just letting off steam and that they feel just as justified as I do when I do it to other people. I think it's helping me (and is entirely appropriate) to feel my feelings as they are and to be validated in my reaction to situations while still considering my opponents as "people". I think it's important to be able to be angry at someone for doing an assholeish thing, and even to judge people for their actions, while still keeping the situation in context that they are a complete person who believes they are the hero of their own narrative just as I do.

"I would like, therefore, to propose a radical idea:

The world is made of lots of people. Some of those people are different from you, and have different ideas about what they want, what turns them on, what is and is not acceptable for them, and what they would like to do.

Some of those ideas are alien, maybe even incomprehensible, to you.

Accept that it is true. Start from the assumption that even if something sounds weird, distasteful, or even disgusting to you, it may not be so to others--and that fact alone does not prove those other folks have something wrong with them. If someone tells you they like something, and you have no compelling evidence that they're lying, believe them--even if you don't understand why.

I've been trying forever to get people to understand this, and I started by getting myself to understand it. I know lots of people (myself included) who think they have The Answer to other people's problems. I know, for instance, people who get really upset when other people make career choices that are not choices that they would choose for themselves. These are usually people who pride themselves on their "work ethic" because they have bought into the erroneous tale that people who work hard enough will be rewarded with an increase in the quality of life based on capitalistic standards.

So anyone who is poor must not be "working hard enough". Anyone who is poor who turns down a job, or who gets sick and goes home instead of working through their illness, or basically does anything that they, themselves, think they wouldn't do in the other person's situation, those people (by this logic) deserve the poverty they get.

I know, I've had that same perspective myself for most of my life. It gets *really* tiring to keep explaining that other people are DIFFERENT PEOPLE. They have different limitations, different perspectives, different preferences, different goals, different priorities, different feelings, different abilities ... and all these differences add up to making different choices that people should not necessarily be punished for.

People who have lots of sex do not "deserve" to get STDs, or to be beaten up, or to be thought of as some kind of "lesser quality" of person. People who do not want to work 80 hours a week doing manual labor in two or three different jobs and still not get any medical benefits do not "deserve" to remain poor or thought of as "lazy".

We do not all need to have the same house, the same jobs, the same clothing, the same kind or amount of sex, or the same goals out of life. And yes, as long as we live in a scarcity-model capitalistic society, sometimes that means that some of us pay more in dollars than others for that right. But if that means that people get to live the lives that makes them happy (which, btw, ultimately *does* contribute back into society), then I'm all for that.

"Equality" does not necessarily mean or have to mean equal dollar amounts. It means equal opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This whole article is amazing and a must-read, and there are so many points that could be picked out and reflected upon. But I'm picking out one particular point, and it's not even one of the main points. I'm picking it out because I have a personal association with this particular point.
"So, even though I had meant to tell him what happened between me and Peter, I didn’t. When Nathan gets upset at me, I tend to recoil. He’s intimidating, though he would never physically hurt me. ... That was another Huge Mistake.

Nathan was totally fine with Peter and I becoming partners as well, but he said that he thought it would be best if we didn’t do anything sexual yet. That created a lump in my throat and a questioning in my mind. After much stewing, the next night I told him what happened, and he Flipped the Fuck Out. He punched the wall, told me I cheated on him, and that I had totally broken his trust. " ~ Advice Asker

"You are a woman who wanted something, and you went after it in a way you thought was within the bounds of your relationship. You found out later that your partner didn’t agree. You didn’t do anything to deserve the amount of humiliation and worry and fear you are feeling right now." ~ Advice Giver
I wish I had known about this years ago.  I have ridiculously high self-esteem.  I am supremely confident in myself and my ability both to handle romantic relationships and to leave them if they go bad.  This means that I've missed people's attempts to manipulate and emotionally abuse me in the past.  I just thought they were jerks.  It took seeing someone I love dearly get emotionally manipulated, and to eventually see how my own ignorance of the situation contributed to it, before I finally started to learn anything about emotional abuse.

I know what physical abuse is, and I've always done the "the second someone raises a hand to me, I'm outta here".  And I've held to that my entire life.  What I didn't know was that doing that kind of mental calculus, "the calculus called Would He Hit Me?", is a sign of emotional abuse.  I never *felt* emotionally abused by my partners getting jealous and punching things in their rage.  I knew, without a doubt, that they'd never hit me.  But I thought their jealousy was unreasonable (not the punching the wall - that was a totally safe outlet for anger, I thought), so I'd leave them for that reason alone.

I once had a partner.  Like the questioner above, who wrote into Captain Awkward with her story, I had a partner with a mismatch in poly relationship expectations.  Unlike that questioner, it wasn't because I told him my boundaries but he refused to tell me his, so I would bump into them on accident.  No, we talked about it.  And we still didn't see eye to eye.  But because we talked about it, I *thought* that we understood each other and it was only until I smacked head-first into his massive armored tank of insecurity and abuse that I learned otherwise.

I found myself in an incredibly unstable situation.  I was experiencing loss left and right.  The situation that led to the discovering-my-boyfriend-was-an-abusive-monster thing was only the beginning of my series of losses, and the whole series combined threw me into a deep depression that I hadn't experienced since I had been bullied as a kid.  I not only thought about suicide, but I started planning it.  This was the time that I needed my partner the most to be supportive and compassionate.  But this was the time that frightened him the most, so he lashed out.

I went after something that, at the time, I felt I needed to help cope with all my chaos and loss and pain.  And it did help.  It was honestly the right thing for me at the time and I don't regret it at all.  It directly led to another series of events that eventually contributed to my healing, and to pulling myself out of the bleakness that was consuming me.  It turned out to be absolutely necessary for me, although I couldn't have known that at the time - I thought it was something I should do, but I didn't realize how it would start a snowball effect that would ultimately lead to saving my life.  The details are not mine alone to share, even anonymously, but I will also say that the thing I "went after" is not actually the thing that I was accused of doing that lead to my partner "Flipp[ing] the Fuck Out".  But I did pursue another relationship, and its progress frightened my abusive ex.

Something that Captain Awkward doesn't mention in their response is a lesser known truism - if you make it unsafe for your partner to tell you the truth, they are likely to start hiding things from you.  My ex made it very unsafe for people to share difficult things with him.  Some things were difficult because they triggered his insecurity.  Some things were difficult because he felt strongly about them and argued tenaciously (a trait I share with him) so that his loved ones stopped giving their contrary opinions on those subjects because it simply wasn't worth the argument.  He made sharing difficult subjects with him a very scary thing.

In addition to that, he was largely unavailable at this time, both temporally and emotionally.  This was part of the chaos that had entered my life - a small part, but a contributing part.  He had begun working longer hours, long enough that he essentially was at work for all but one or two waking hours a day.  This pissed off his live-in partner, because she never got to see him anymore, and their tradition was for her to wait for him to come home so they could eat dinner together and this meant that she was now waiting until 9 or 10 at night before she could eat.  He was trying to manage a total of 4 romantic partners and two of them were emotionally turbulent, to give the understatement of the year.  We used to chat online throughout the day, but his work situation had recently put an end to that.  So I was allocated the 10-minute drive from his office to his house to talk to him on the phone in the evenings.  Except on those nights where one of his other partners was in the car with him because there was also car trouble in the group and some car sharing had become necessary.

So, here I was, in a relationship with someone who was giving me about 30 minutes of his time per week, knowing that I would only have his attention for 10 minutes at a stretch, which would have a pretty hard cut-off time otherwise his live-in partner would get pissed (and I'd have to deal with the knowledge (that he insinuated to me) that it was all my fault she was pissed because he was giving me more attention than her, whether that was true or not), most of that time would be taken up with his anguish over the troubles his other relationships were giving him, AND that, because of how he reacted to difficult news, telling him about my own emotional tailspin and the subsequent Incident would be a very Unsafe Conversation and definitely take more than 10 minutes, further ruining the night for his live-in partner who was waiting for him so she could finally eat her one big meal of the day.

All of this added up to the fact that he was unreachable to talk to immediately after the Incident (again, too busy at work, putting out relationship fires at home, just not available), and he was very "intimidating" to talk to when I did finally have his attention.  So I know that I handled my end of the conversation poorly several days after the fact when I could finally have that conversation with him.  I was accused of "cheating" on him when I A) didn't do what he said I had done and B) acted completely within my own ethical framework that I thought I had conveyed to him but I found out because of this that we had different relationship frameworks.  He immediately tried to impose restrictions on me.  He was very slick about it, though.  Unlike the abuser in this advice letter, he didn't do it punitively, exactly.  He tried to *retroactively* impose restrictions on me.  He wanted me to obey some restrictions that he claimed had *always been there* that I had now broken.  Those restrictions violated the agency of my other partner because they imposed limitations on his own behaviour and he was not present to negotiate for them, nor would he have accepted them had he been present. I felt (and still do) that I would never have agreed to such restrictions had I understood that's what *he* thought our relationship was operating under.  As they were not restrictions that *I* wanted either even self-imposed, that should have settled the matter.

But, instead, my ex told me that I could not just arbitrarily "change" the nature of our relationship without his permission.  Since the so-called "change" he was speaking of was regarding my own behaviour, yes, actually, I can.  He can choose to remain or not, but I am the sole arbitrator of my own behaviour and, as such, am the *only* one who has the ability to "change" it or not.

I do not believe he had ever encountered any romantic partner who faced that kind of challenge from him head on with "yes, I can make, re-make, and re-arrange the boundaries around my own behaviour without input from you" before.  Whenever I had seen him challenge one of his other partners in such a manner, without fail, they backtracked and apologized and, in many cases, grovelled for his forgiveness, and accepted all kinds of restrictions and limitations in order to "prove" their worthiness of remaining in a relationship with him.  He called it "accepting responsibility for fucking up".  I call it "falling victim to gaslighting", at least in these cases where I witnessed it and where I have details of the situations that I'm not sharing here.  I believe my refusal to bend on the issue of who can command my behaviour is what ultimately saved me.  As a blogger once said, "'I was victimized by acts of control' is not the same as 'I was victimized by the other person’s resistance to my control,'" and "These are my choices. You are not entitled to control over them, you are not victimized by them."

He felt "victimized" by my resistance to his attempt to control my behaviour.  He felt "betrayed" because I behaved in a manner that didn't affect him directly at all, was something that I needed to do for myself in a time of need, but was something that he found frightening because it was not under his control.  When I gave no quarter, the relationship ended swiftly, without build-up or warning.  Everyone was surprised by how quickly things escalated to a breakup.  And I can't be more thankful for that, because I saw what happens to his partners when the breakups are slow in coming, and when they try to negotiate and seek compromise in good faith with him.

There is no "in good faith" with an abuser.  I did not recognize him at the time as an abuser.  I do not feel abused by him because his attempts to control me were met by my stubborn refusal to give up my autonomy.  I am quite unyielding about that.  And when people feel "victimized by the other person's resistence to my control", that unyielding feels cold, hard, calculated, uncompassionate, uncaring, and other words that are supposed to be bad adjectives for a romantic partner.  But those are the adjectives that have rescued me from several abusive relationships.

And, strangely, those partners of mine who have not attempted to abuse me or who do not have abusive tendencies don't feel that those adjectives describe me in the slightest.  Funny, that.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I saw a post that I just can't get out of my head. A married hetero couple has decided that they will be expanding their attempt to have a baby by allowing the wife's boyfriend to try to father the child too. Sounds wonderfully poly, right? Well, this couple has also already decided that they won't learn who the bio-father is, and no matter who that bio-father is, the married couple is who will raise the child. And they're going to announce this decision to the boyfriend soon.

I just can't properly express my horror at this situation. There is so much wrong here that I'm having trouble knowing where to start. This is exactly the kind of thing we're talking about when we complain about not being an equal partner. I want to be very clear about this: I am NOT suggesting that the boyfriend MUST be an equal co-parent to the child. What makes this a disempowering relationship, what makes the boyfriend not an equal is not what role he will play in the child's life, but that the decision on that role has been made without his input.

Here's the thing. I'm adopted. I strongly believe that my bio-parents made the right decision in giving me up for adoption and I have always believed that. This is not about who gets to be the parent. The decision to give me up was made by my bio-parents, not my adopted parents. My adoptive parents did not decide that I should be their child and then they found my bio-parents and announced to them from on high that they shall bear their child for them. I have a relationship with my bio-mom, so I actually do know the circumstances of my adoption. She decided, on her own, without any coercion from anyone, that giving up her parental rights was the best thing for me. Her parents would have supported her if she had decided to keep me. It was a hard decision for her, but she made that decision because she believed it was the best thing for me. She chose my adopted parents from a list of hopeful parents. My adoption was a case of everyone involved coming together and choosing each other voluntarily. My bio-mom had full agency in the decision to not be a parent. If anything, she had more power in the decision than anyone else in the equation.

I am a firm believer that not everyone should be parents, even if they contribute the gentic material to the child. I support parents who leave their children and spouses because I believe it frees the kids and spouse up for building working families and prevents children from being raised by parents who don't actually want to raise them. I don't approve of leaving children in financial straits, but that's a different rant. I wholeheartedly support people who do not want to be parents, for whatever reason, and I believe that children are better off not being parented by people who don't want to be parents.

I keep reiterating that my argument is not that the boyfriend ought to be the father because I know that some people are going to hear my objection and come back with "but what if he's OK with not being the dad?" That's not the point. That's SO not the point. The point is that the decision has been made for him by people, at least one of whom is not even in the relationship and who will not be biologically related to this man's child. Imagine if a divorced woman remarries, and her new husband has the ability to go back in time and tell his new wife's first husband "this kid that you're about to father? Just so you know, it'll be my kid. Legally, and in practice, and from before it's even born. You don't have a say in this, if you don't like it, you can just avoid impregnating your wife, or you can divorce her now before she gets pregnant and we'll find someone we like better to father my child for me."

"But he doesn't have to accept! He's free to say no, or to leave if he wants to." Again, missing the point. Once someone has given their heart to another, they are not as free to say no as it seems. Especially when that person is already entangled with people who, judging by this situation, have set him up in an inherently disempowering situation. If everyone involved believes they are happy with their current arrangement, and if he is in love, it's all too likely that he'll look at the situation and think "sure, I don't mind not being the 'father' because I'm still the boyfriend and I'll still be a major part of my child's life." Because when one is in love, imagining the day when the relationship goes sour and custody battles get wicked seems so ridiculous, so absurd, that one usually doesn't even consider it as a possibility.

"Of course my partner would never be one of those frightful, evil witches who would keep me from my own child! If I thought they were that kind of person, I wouldn't have fallen in love with them in the first place!" No one who ends up in divorce court, bitterly tearing their children in half and using their children's bloody pieces to whack each other over the heads with ever thought their spouse was the kind of person who would do that sort of thing. When we're in love, we can't even imagine our partners doing anything so horrible. This is why people are able to say stupid things like "unconditional love". I guarantee that there is something that your loved ones can do that will make you stop loving them. The problem is that you don't think they are the kind of person to do that sort of thing. And you are also terrible at predicting your future emotions - everyone is. What we think is acceptable when we're in love, we often don't think is acceptable after the love is gone. I've certainly agreed to things in my relationships because I was in love and I didn't think it was really that bad, but after the relationship ended, I was disgusted at myself for having agreed to it and for not seeing how that thing was really a prelude to exactly those things that led to our breakup and it was actually far, far worse than it looked from the beginning.

Things like veto, and this situation, are like that - they don't seem that bad when you haven't gone through it and you're in love so you can't see how the other person could possibly have bad motivations or would possibly take advantage of the situation and harm you. It's usually not until you've gone through it and are out the other side that most people even have the opportunity to see it for the bad thing that it is, and even then usually the only people who do so only do because it didn't end well. It's like when people don't wear their seatbelts.

I know a guy who refuses to wear a seatbelt. Apparently he was in a car accident once and got ejected from the car, and someone told him that it was a good thing that he did because if he had stayed in the car, he would have been injured worse or killed. So he never wears a seatbelt. He's been ticketed multiple times for it, but each time he goes before a judge and says that he absolutely will not change - that he's only alive today because he didn't wear a seatbelt. The only way he will ever learn what a bad idea it is to not wear a seatbelt is if he gets in some horrific wreck that makes it obvious that a seatbelt would have prevented his permanent paralysis or loss of limbs or the death of a loved one or something. And even then it's not guaranteed that he'll learn that lesson, but it will take something awful to get him to see that not wearing a seatbelt is inherently a bad idea if anything can convince him at all.

Some people go their entire lives never getting into car wrecks. Maybe they get into a fender-bender or narrowly miss another car or something. But, out of sheer luck and the mysteries of the statistically probable, some people manage to not do something like roll their car down a hill (not that I would know anything about that). And they will go through their life believing that something they're doing or not doing is responsible for not dying in a car crash. I knew another guy who tailgated something awful. Because of him, I learned how to sit in the front seat of a car and never once look out the front window. I was terrified of him rear-ending someone and having my legs crushed beneath the dashboard as the car crumpled underneath the rear bumper of the car ahead of us. He thought he was a good driver. He insisted he was a good driver and that he had certain skills that prevented him from rear-ending anyone. A couple of years after we broke up, he totaled his car by rear-ending someone. I dated a first-responder and we were always pulling somebody out of a broken wreck of a car because he was obligated to respond to any accident he came across and we came across a lot while out on dates because we dated in California - home of the original Road Rage and the CA freeway system. I have a dozen stories just like this - some idiot thinks they're bulletproof and that they are because of something they're doing or not doing. And many of the people we hauled out of mangled steel and burning hulks came out of there still believing that it wasn't some failure of theirs that got them into the accident.

What I'm trying to say is that if, and that's a big if, but if this boyfriend just happens to be OK with impregnating his girlfriend and not being allowed to be the kid's father, that's coincidence. It's not proof that the hierarchy is working. If he was really OK with it, then it wouldn't have needed to have been decided ahead of time. And if he is OK with it, then he probably isn't in a position to understand his own disempowerment. He probably believes that he has all the choice because he chose to be in a relationship with these limitations. So this couple will parade him about with "but our secondary says it's OK, therefore it's not disempowering!" Yeah, and I know some black people who don't mind if their good white friend calls them nigger either. It's still fucking racist. If the boyfriend agrees to this, it's likely because he can't imagine the married couple doing anything to make him regret the decision. So it will probably take them doing something to make him regret it before he'll understand what's wrong with this whole mess and how the deck was stacked against him from the beginning.

That's the problem with abusive structures, as I'm coming to learn, unfortunately from first-hand observations - they seem reasonable at the beginning, or from the outside, because if they seemed unreasonable at the beginning, no one would get into them. We often can't recognize them until it's too late and we're neck-deep in alligators. Some of us will even vehemently defend the swamp because we can't see the alligators from our vantage point. We'll insist that we have agency and that we are empowered, because we can't see the invisble threads being woven around us that will hold us down while the aligators eat us, and we won't see those threads until we try to move out of the little niche we think we carved for ourselves.

And, even worse, we often can't see when we're the ones weaving the sticky spider silk around our prey, because it's just what we do so we don't know anything different. Hey, he wandered into our web, didn't he? We couldn't have trapped him if he hadn't stood right where we could build our web. It's his freedom of choice. So why should we bother to change our ways when there are victims just lining up to stand where we can weave our webs around them? Oh, I dunno, maybe because it's not good enough to be a spider, trapping prey in a swamp filled with alligators? Maybe because we should be trying to become people who are willing to help lift up our partners out of swamps instead?

If your relationship structure includes the ability to make decisions for people without their input, your relationship is inherently, fundamentally, unethical. Period. It doesn't matter if those people are willing to accept those decisions. If they were not able to come to the table with you as an equal and say "here's what I am interested and willing to do with you", then you are, by definition, disempowering your partners. The final configuration is irrelevant. It isn't about who gets to be the primary and what if someone likes being a secondary. It's about who gets to decide who gets to be the primary or the secondary. If the answer includes people who are not in the relationship that the decision is affecting, and it doesn't include anyone who is in that relationship that is affected by the decision, then it is an unethical, unequal, disempowering structure. It's not the configuration or the end-result roles that make it so, it's the process.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
"But we need rules to keep people from lying to us!"

I got news for you honey, rules don't keep people from lying to you, they only tell people willing to lie what they need to lie about. An honest person and a liar look exactly the same ... until after you discover the lie, and by then it's too late. Rules won't stop someone from lying because, and I'm gonna let you in on a little secret here ... someone willing to lie to you won't care that there's a rule against lying. It's like someone who is intent on murder isn't going to say "oh, you mean it's illegal for me to own a gun? Oh, well, I guess I won't go murder then!" Being against the rules isn't what stops people from lying, cheating, or hurting us.

But I'll tell you what does stop them from doing those things, most of the time. Respecting people's autonomy, giving them the freedom to make their own decisions, and providing enough safe space for them to tell you things that you might find difficult to hear - that's what prevents most people from lying.

It's kind of amazing how much more willing people are to be honest to you if they believe that it's safe to be honest to you. Lying takes effort. It takes work. But our society rewards lying and punishes telling hard truths. This doesn't mean, of course, that you're not allowed to react or have bad feelings when you hear something upsetting. But it does mean that there has to be some incentive to tell a hard truth that is greater than the incentive to lie and the consequences for telling the truth have to be less than the consequences for lying. Why should I tell the truth if I can lie and nothing bad will happen to me?

Because telling the truth would make a better person, and if you don't make it so difficult for me that not being a good person is the lesser consequence, then I'll tell you the truth (giving myself Brownie points for being a Good Person) and avoid the hassle of lying.

This doesn't stop everyone from lying, of course. Some people have a mental disorder called pathological lying. Some people have programming that's just too ingrained. Some people get off on secrecy and subterfuge. But the kicker is that, for those people, the rules won't stop them. The rules just tell them how they can "win" the game by oh so considerately laying out exactly what they can or should lie about. The rules don't weed out liars, they create opportunities for liars.

I've often been baffled by guys who would get into relationships with me because I said I wanted an open one, and then they would proceed to lie to me about seeing anyone else. Like, WTF dude? You have my blessings! There's no reason to lie! Those people are out there, absolutely. What do you think would have happened if I had made a rule that these guys couldn't date other people? Do you think they would have said "oh, well, I WAS going to sneak around behind her back and fuck this chick on the side, but now that she SAID that I couldn't, I guess there goes that plan then!" Because that's totally realistic, right?

People who are going to lie are going to lie. Supporting people's freedom and autonomy and encouraging them to follow their own path while nurturing a haven for them to share the stories of their travels with you is far more successful at weeding out liars and developing honest relationships.

I know, it's surprising, that treating people with respect makes them want to be respectful back. Totally counter-intuitive, right? Well, yes, it is in a culture that confuses "respect" with "fear my authority". But it's really easy to make people fear you. It's much harder to make them willingly respect you. I guess if fear and control is what you're going for in a relationship, at least you can own up to that and stop kidding yourself that you're doing it for the "respect".
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
Don't let your mind be so open that your brain falls out.

I see this is lefty politics, in right politics, and in poly groups. People want to keep "considering the options" even when the evidence against efficacy mounts.

There comes a point at which it is no longer reasonable to continue considering certain options. It is no longer reasonable to continue considering the possibility that the world is flat. We have such overwhelming evidence, that we can safely discard that hypothesis without being "close minded".

When the poly community erupts over a book or a blog post that carefully details a more effective, efficient, and ethical way of doing relationships, the *reason* why the community erupts over that literature is because someone has finally written a Theory Of Ethical Relating that explains and summarizes the overwhelming evidence that this method is more effective, efficient, and ethical.

That's what a Theory is - it's not a guess, it's a summation of the facts that exist and an explanation that ties those facts together. You may not like the conclusions, but the "open minded" person doesn't keep their mind continually open for bullshit and crap. Being "open minded" means being willing to consider the evidence. When the evidence is in, you can accept the conclusion and still be an "open minded person", because you did what open minded people do - you considered the evidence.

All this to say, if everyone in the community is saying "dude, that method is fucked up", then the community is not the bad guy for discarding your fucked up method. You are not Galileo. The "experts" agreed with Galileo, and the religious nutbags were the ones who condemned him. The "experts" are not agreeing with you. You, in this analogy, are the close-minded nutbag who refuses to accept the changing consensus which was developed as more and more evidence accrued.

Being open-minded is considering the evidence. Insisting that your lone wolf maverick idea is the right one when everyone around you is saying "dude, that's not new, we already tested that one and it failed testing multiple times over" is the very definition of "close minded". You are not willing to consider the evidence. You are the close-minded one.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
This was created as a Facebook event worldwide by the rather well-known Lee Harrington (look them up).  Since not everyone has FB, I'm sharing it here.  I wanted to make sure all the details came through even for people who couldn't visit the event page, which of course meant that it's too long for Twitter, so I'm making a public blog post so that I can tweet *that* and anyone can see it (hopefully).

I HATE April Fool's Day.  Our culture has begun to reward and celebrate the sorts of pranks that punish belief and gullibility.  Now, as a skeptic, I would ordinarily say that's a good thing.  But we aren't just teaching people to be more skeptical, we're teaching people to be more cynical because we're presenting these false stories by TRUSTWORTHY SOURCES and then humiliating people when they have the gall to believe a person (or a business) who has previously earned their trust.  April Fool's Day isn't about teaching people to investigate or question, it's about setting someone up with a totally believable story or prank as presented by someone they have reason to believe, and then publicly displaying their belief in the most humiliating way possible.  April Fool's Day has become:
"Ha ha, I'm a good friend that you have every reason to believe, and I'm telling you a totally reasonably believable story, BUT IT'S FALSE and you believed it, you fool!  You're such an idiot for believing me, even though I deliberately set you up to believe me!"
And that's the nice version.  Other popular forms of pranks involve other sorts of humiliation that don't require belief but often require destruction of property or poking at people's vulnerable spots (like fake pregnancy announcements on social media when there are women who can't have children but who desperately want them, for instance, or fake-coming out as gay when real people face discrimination, ostracization, violence, homelessness, and even death).  So I am really opposed to April Fool's Day as a national holiday.  But THIS is a holiday that I can get behind:
In our culture, April Fools Day has become a day of pranks and emotional confusion, deceit cast in the guise of playfulness.

Let us make a new holiday to counter the experience, one week later...

April 8th
Honesty and Vulnerability Day!

Turn to a friend and share how you adore them. Tell the world about a joy of yours, or a tender shadow that has been weighing you down. As you do so, let them know that you are being vulnerable and honest, and ask that they receive your gift of honesty and vulnerability from a place of love as well. This is not just an online event, this is a push to make the world at large a better place for us all.

Day of Honesty and Vulnerability is a chance for us to build strength and connection in our world rather than perpetuate pain and confusion. Let us build a better world for us to all live in, one day at a time.

#HonestAndVulnerable
#HAVDay
#HonestyAndVulnerabilityDay
joreth: (Misty in Box)

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2015/03/16/how-owning-your-dark-clouds-can-actually-make-you-happier/

This is essentially what I've been trying to say whenever someone asks in some support group "I feel bad, how do you make the bad feelings go away?" This is particularly common in poly groups with people asking how to stop feeling jealous.  I've tried to explain that sometimes, you just have to feel what you're feeling and it's not always possible, or even desirable, to just "make it go away".

Sometimes you *do* need a break from the bad feelings in order to pull yourself up high enough to be constructive and productive.  As [livejournal.com profile] tacit says, when you're ass-deep in aligators, it can be difficult to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp.  But this idea that we can't ever feel bad for any reason at all is a toxic mindset and counterproductive to our goals. You don't want to wallow in the bad feelings, but you don't want to try to prevent yourself from feeling bad feelings completely either. You need to feel the feelings, identify them, describe them acutely, and then use them to set your goals.

"its anger that tells me that something or someone is getting in the way of goals that matter to me. It tells me I need to remove obstacles. I may need to talk to people. But I need to do something and not just sit here. Anger motivates us to go approach the world and get rid of barriers. "

"It turns out, the people who were more adept at describing how they felt in a fine-grained way, when they’re extremely distressed in the moment, are less likely to fall to pieces, and less likely to do something desperately to take away the pain, such as abusing drugs or being aggressive to others. The were more likely to be able to sit with those emotions, then continue doing what they care about."

"First, emotions are just tools. Don’t make emotions the goal. Research suggests if we take the goal of happiness out of the equation, ironically, that makes us happier in the journey of our lives. Second, train yourself to be better able to clarify, describe and understand what you’re feeling, because that will help you better figure out what to do next."
I have had 2 periods in my life where the feelings were so overwhelming that I couldn't function.  And I've had a handful of times when I felt so bad that, although I *could* function, I just wanted the feeling to stop, so I did what I needed to do in order to stop the feeling and then lost the motivation to fix the situation that produced the feeling in the first place, because I wasn't feeling the feeling anymore.  So I totally understand the desire to make the bad feeling go away.  The first time I lost the ability to function, I somehow figured out how to "turn off" my emotions in order to cope.  I can't remember how I did it, but I went emotionally numb.  The problem is that, as I learned, you can't selectively turn off emotions.  They come as a package deal.  So I lost the ability to feel the good feelings too.  The second time, I couldn't remember how I turned them off the first time, so I sought professional help.  This was a much better coping strategy.  I got some medication that evened out my mood and I could function again.  It didn't prevent me from feeling bad feelings, it just made the bad feelings a little less stark and a little more manageable.

There are some things that well-meaning friends do when a friend of theirs is going through a breakup or a loss of some sort.  I really appreciate the desire to help, but if y'all could stop doing this to each other, you'd be much more helpful.  When someone you know is going through a breakup, for a lot of people there's this desire to cheer them up.  We tell our grieving friend "you're much better off without them!" or anything we can think of to reassure them and make them feel better about the loss.

As a solo poly person, I've been through a LOT of breakups - most of them amicable but still painful in the moment.  The more people one dates, the more chances one has to experience a breakup.  This means that I'm actually pretty comfortable going through breakups.  Don't get me wrong, I don't *like* them.  They don't feel good at all.  I experience all the same stages of grief that everyone else does.  But it means that I've been through them from start to finish enough times that I know, even in the middle of my grief, what's waiting for me on the other side.  I know that I'll get through it, that I'll get over it, and that I'll be fine.  I also know that I just have to feel my grief until it's gone.

So what's most helpful to someone going through a grieving period is not trying to make them feel good again as quickly as possible, but to help them feel their grief.  Give them the space to feel what they're feeling.  Let them know that it's OK to feel bad.  Accept them in their dark moments so that they know that they're not alone in the darkness and that the darkness will pass.  Be there to help them, if they want, to identify what they're feeling so that they can make productive decisions about their life that the emotions are telling them about.  Facilitate and allow them to examine and feel their feelings so that they can better identify root causes, which will lead to the kinds of changes that will bring about those happy feelings you're anxious for them to feel as a consequence, not as the goal.

When emotions are the result and the tool, not the goal, it turns out that the good feelings are more consistent and the bad feelings are more manageable.  If you want to feel good, you can't make feeling good the goal - you have to make *doing things* the goal and the good feelings will follow.  Just like how to "get" a romantic partner - if you make "getting" a partner the goal, you'll have less success.  But if you make being an awesome person the goal, then romantic partners will follow.  Your emotions are giving you important information.  Listen to them, don't wipe them away.  If you listen to them, you'll actually learn the more effective way of reducing the bad ones and increasing the good ones.
joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
There hasn't been an HPV update in a really long time, mainly because there hasn't been any HPV news in a really long time.  No real progress on the vaccine or the virus itself, either in curing or in understanding.  We already understood it pretty well and things seemed to reach a plateau.  But today, I have 2 fairly major updates!

1) There is now a vaccine that covers 9 strains of the virus!  The original, Gardasil, covered 4 strains - the two most common strains known to cause cancer (HPV 16 & 18) and the two most common strains known to cause genital warts (HPV 6, & 11), while the main competitor Ceravix covered the two cancer-causing strains.  There are dozens, perhaps hundreds of strains of HPV, but 16 & 19 were known to cause something like 70% of all the hpv-caused cancer cases and a smiliar number of genital warts, so the researchers understandably focused on those strains first.  There has been some evidence that Gardasil was 50% effective against several other strains as well, but it was approved for those 4, for which it's about 90~% effective.

Now, however, there will be a new vaccine, called Gardasil 9 that covers  HPV-31, 33, 45, 52 and 58 in addition to the original 4 strains.  That is estimated to protect against 90% of the cancer-caused-by-HPV cases in vaccine-protected women!  The test shows that there were slightly more side effects after taking the vaccine, but the side effects were completely within the range of expected side effects for any vaccine - namely that if you stick someone with a needle, they might faint or feel sore at the injection site.  Duh!

2) The CDC has compiled a report analyzing adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine.  And, guess what?  It's exactly as predicted - totally safe!  More than 23 million (MILLION!!) doses were administered in the US since it became licensed in 2006.  There were just over 12,000 adverse reactions reported in the 2 years that this study covers.  Out of those 12,000~ adverse reactions, 94% were not serious and the usual sorts of things you'd expect when you get jabbed with a needle - fainting, soreness, redness at the injection site, dizziness, etc.

Out of the 6% that were classified as "serious", 32 were deaths.  I know, 32 dead is an awful number.  But remember, that's 32 out of MILLIONS of doses.  AND, on top of that, not a single one of those deaths can be tied to the vaccine itself.  They had to do with illicit drug use, diabetes, a known heart condition that resulted in heart failure, etc.  Remember, VAERS - the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System - collects data about, literally ANYTHING that happens to someone after a vaccine.  I wrote about the Phase III trials in India a bunch of years ago, where 6 girls died after taking the vaccine, but that included several suicides by drowning and a fatal snake bite.  And yet, the system is designed to count anything bad that happens, so they got counted.  Even if all 32 of them could be linked to HPV due to some quirk of genetics or something, that's still only 32 out of millions, and that's still a risk worth taking.  And yes, I do take these risks myself.

After analyzing all the data, the summary concludes that there is no evidence to support the vaccine causing a single one of those serious adverse reactions.  There are, however, several cases that the study recommends further investigation, although I would like to reiterate that it recommends further investigation EVEN THOUGH there is currently no evidence to suggest those reactions were a result of the vaccine.  This is science working - if the evidence doesn't reach a certain level of confidence, they keep looking at it.  There rarely is any black & white, yes / no answers in science.  There is, however, margins of error and robust vs. weak spectrums.  And the evidence for the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine has pretty much slammed the needle on the "robust" side supporting the vaccine.

However, even with the safety evidence continuing to mount, the CDC and the FDA both have amended their warning recommendations to better reinforce safety protocols, such as keeping a better watch on patients for 15 minutes after receiving the vaccine to make sure that they don't fall and hit their head if they get dizzy from being stabbed with a sharp pointy object.



So, the bottom line is that the HPV vaccine is as safe as any vaccine out there - which is to say pretty damn safe; pretty much no one has been harmed by it any more than one would expect to be harmed by being poked with a big needle even with no vaccine at all; they continue to watch and evaluate and refine the process; and there will shortly be an even better vaccine available that I heartily recommend to everyone who can afford it.

For more on HPV vaccine safety, I refer you to a previous post that includes a graphic from the Information Is Beautiful site that elegantly explains, using easy-to-grasp graphics, the relative risk vs. safety and efficacy of the vaccine.  I also recommend clicking on the STI tag below to see all my older posts on the subject.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
I think I might be zeroing in on why it pisses me off so much that people are defending 50 Shades.  This is still rough, but I think I'm getting closer to what's wrong with these defenses.  I've been spending a lot of time learning how to support abuse victims over the last couple of years.  Over and over, the message to victim supporters is "just listen, and accept".  Believe victims, listen to them, accept their story.  You don't have to "take sides" by accusing the abuser or doing anything active against the abuser.  You can even reserve some empathy and support for the alleged abuser.  The important part is that you make a safe space for the victim to heal and to feel.

In all the various rants and criticisms of 50 Shades, what I'm hearing is pain.  Sometimes it's from abuse victims being triggered, and sometimes it's from people who feel such empathy that they feel fear and pain on behalf of all the women who have been abused or who will experience abuse because of the rape culture that 50 Shades contributes to (or, as in the 2 articles I read recently, the abuse and murder of women that were directly linked to 50 Shades).

So, here I am, being told that we need to hear victims and to listen to people's pain and to support them, on one hand.  But on the other hand, when it comes to 50 Shades, I hear "oh, lighten up, it's just a book!" and "geez, don't take things so seriously, it's FICTION for fuck's sake!" and "c'mon, nobody REALLY believes this, so just back off and stop making me feel bad for getting turned on by something that other people are afraid of" with a handful of Dear Muslima responses thrown in (in reference to Dawkins' famous reply basically suggesting that there are worse problems in the world so we shouldn't waste any time talking about the less-worse problems until the worse ones are solved).

In other words, all the defenses of 50 Shades sound exactly like rape apologism.  But, more than that, there are people who are trying to say "this hurts me and this hurts others", and yet people, even those who are normally right there on the support-the-victims side, people are hearing those cries of pain and dismissing them out of hand.

As with polyamory, not having a One Right Way does not necessarily mean that there are also no Wrong Ways.  Some things are morally wrong, some things are factually wrong, some things are less likely to succeed than other methods and therefore "wrong".

And a story that romanticizes abuse, as opposed to a story that simply tells of abuse, is wrong.  So is opposing all those voices crying out in pain.  It's OK to enjoy problematic media.  It's not OK to silence and dismiss criticism of that media, and it's especially not OK to dismiss the cries of abuse that the media is triggering.



This is a comment I made on the FB post for this blog piece.  I'm still trying to find the right words to express what's in my head about this, and the following comment got me another step closer, so I'm adding it to this post:


This revelation is coming from a different angle [from the usual criticisms that 50 Shades is how actual abusers break down their victims which is being touted as "romantic" instead of dangerous], and I'm still teasing it out. I'm seeing a lot of defenses of 50 Shades coming from people who are usually right there on my side in the domestic violence discussions. But when it comes to the book, they suddenly switch sides.

And I think what's niggling at my brain is that this is more than just the standard rape apologism rearing it's ugly head. This is the book itself doing harm, and the defenders aren't being rape apologists for real, but it's as if the *book* is the "abuser" itself and its victims are crying out through their book reviews and criticisms, and people who normally fight against rape culture are now defending *the book* as if the book was an abuser that they are desperately trying to ignore is an abuser simply because it's popular and they don't want to lose access to it.

Like, in the kink community when all those rape accusations started coming out a few years ago. A bunch of people defended the rapists because they were leaders in the community, and if you cut off ties to the rapist, then you couldn't go to the awesome bondage parties anymore because the rapist was the only one with a dungeon who threw parties. So people refused to "take sides" or support the victims, and defended the rapists because they stood to lose something socially if they did so.

The defenses of this book are feeling like the exact same thing. People who are totally in favor of SSC or RACK (Safe, Sane, & Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink for those reading this & who don't know) nevertheless defended rapists in the community because the rapists provided stuff that the defenders didn't want to lose access to, so they did the usual sorts of rationalizations that people do when they're invested in a concept and need to hold onto it in order to protect their investment.  I'm sure many of those rape defenders absolutely believed their own arguments, but they were still doing well-known and well-understood logical fallacies, rationalizations, and other mental gymnastics to avoid facing the fact that someone they knew, trusted, perhaps liked and probably needed for something, did a Bad Thing.  It even has a name - the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

The defenders of this book, who are normally supporters of abuse victims, are defending the book in much the same way, where the book has "abused" people and the victims & supporters are crying out, but the defenders don't want to lose their precious jerk-off story or examine their own attachment to unhealthy relationship patterns, so they're dismissing the cries of pain from those who are feeling harmed by the book.



Hypothesis: Some defenses of 50 Shades may be an example of a Sunk Cost Fallacy, where people dig in their heels to defend something they are invested in, resulting in treating the book in the same way one might treat an accused abuser that one wants to deny is an abuser (usually when one receives something beneficial from association with the accused abuser, such as social status, access to social events, even love or a relationship) and dismissing claims of harm from its victims and victim-supporters.
joreth: (BDSM)
http://www.mamamia.com.au/rogue/fifty-shades-of-grey-review-rosie-waterland/

I've seen a lot, and I mean A LOT, of strawman arguments that it's insulting and overly simplistic to claim that people are too stupid to realize that 50 Shades is fantasy and fiction and that we shouldn't be worried about its impact on society, especially considering the mountains of other material contributing to rape culture in our society.

First of all, it's a strawman because no one is saying that anyone is "too stupid" to know the difference. We're saying that it reinforces an already-existing set of cultural tropes that lead people into abusive situations because we are not told that these situations are abusive. One does not have to be "stupid" to find oneself in an abusive situation. One only has to be unaware of the warning signs, and that's most people. Even people who have been in abusive relationships don't know all the warning signs, and many think that their experience is the ONLY version that counts. I've seen a lot of abuse victims say "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this wasn't it!"

Hell, I've said that myself. Except I said that about a real situation. And that's exactly the problem. I was in an abusive relationship. So I thought I knew what abuse looked like. And when someone else's different abusive situation was presented to me, I, with all my sociology experience and alternative relationship experience and feminist views, I looked right at that relationship and said "I've been in an abusive relationship, and this one isn't the same, therefore it's not abuse." I am deeply ashamed of that now. I could have been a source of support. Instead, I was an enabler.

So, fuck you for saying this movie is no big deal. It is. Not because people are too stupid. Because abuse is that big, that complex, and that difficult to identify.

Second, the reason why we're singling this story out over that aforementioned mountain of material contributing to rape culture is because it's currently the one getting the most positive press, the most defense, and making the most money from deliberately obfuscating, dare I say "blurring the lines", between romance and domestic abuse. Unlike some other examples given, this one is being held up as something to aspire to, whereas most of the other examples (Game of Thrones, just to name one) are depicting graphic violence but not idealizing or romanticizing the graphic violence.

IT'S NOT THE GRAPHIC VIOLENCE that's the problem. It's the ACCEPTANCE of the violence as romance, as desirable, as masking it behind a subculture that already has trouble being understood and accepted in society that's the problem.  Remember, I participate in consensual non-consent, and I do so without a safeword.  I became a weekend sensation one year at Frolicon because of a take-down scene involving me and my two male partners trying to rape me in the dungeon, and I fought so hard that they actually couldn't succeed without my deliberate assistance.  I've been exploring rape fantasies since before puberty.  This is NOT ABOUT THE KINK, it's about actual domestic violence, manipulation, and emotional abuse.

"But I screwed up. I screwed up big time. I went into this film thinking it would be two hours of B-grade hilarity about bondage that I could make fun of. It was actually two hours of incredibly disturbing content about an emotionally abusive relationship that left me really, really shaken. And now I’m embarrassed that I ever joked about it."

"And my opinion was, well, if they’re two consenting adults, and being tied up and slapped is their thing, then what’s the big deal? But I had no idea that Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t just about the sex. It’s also about an incredibly disturbing and manipulative, emotionally abusive relationship."

"And let me be clear to the women who are incredibly defensive of the book that gave them a sexual awakening: When I talk about domestic abuse, I’m not talking about the sex. In fact, I considered the sex to be the least offensive part of the movie."

"Because as I was sitting in that cinema last night, I was completely floored by what I was watching. And by what millions of women had accepted as a relationship to aspire to."

"It’s emotional abuse disguised as a ‘naughty sex contract’. It’s domestic violence dressed up as sexy fantasy.

And it’s a genius, subtle move. Putting this kind of controlling, emotionally abusive relationship in the context of a sexy billionaire who just needs to be loved, makes it ridiculously easy to convince audiences the world over that this kind of behaviour is okay. He’s not some poor drunk with a mullet, hitting his wife for not doing the dishes. Christian is classy. Rich. Educated. He’s not what most women imagine an abuser to be, and his kind of abuse is not what most women would immediately recognise."

"The blurred lines in this film mean any kind discussion about abuse can be easily shut down by those determined to be obtuse because they like the sexy blindfolds.

But there is no doubt in my mind that the film I watched last night was a disturbing and clear depiction of a controlling and emotionally abusive relationship. This was domestic violence. I don’t care how many women learned to embrace sex because of Fifty Shades of Grey. THIS WAS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE."

"This was domestic abuse marketed as Valentine’s Day fun."
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

https://www.morethantwo.com/gamechanger.html

"The game changer is the relationship that comes along and turns everything upside down. It’s the relationship that changes the familiar landscape of life, rearranging the furniture in new and unexpected ways."

"“Yes, you will always be #1″ is true until it isn’t, and there is no rule that can change that. If someone comes along who your partner genuinely does love more than he loves you, whatever that means…well, his priorities are unlikely to remain with abiding by the agreements he’s made with you. Game-changing relationships change things; that’s what they do. They change priorities, and that means they change rules. Expecting an agreement to protect you from a game changer is about like expecting a river to obey a law against flooding."

One of the drawbacks to choosing a life off the relationship escalator - of deliberately choosing to be poly, to be "single", to be a "bachelor" (none of which are interchangeable terms) - is that having more partners than most means that I probably have had more breakups than most too.

But that's also one of the benefits. Not really a set of benefits that I'd like to have, mind you, but I did benefit greatly from going through as many breakups as I have. I've learned, the hard way, about the Game Changer. I've seen from both perspectives how Game Changers change the game. I've seen people who had every intention of following through with their rules and agreements encounter a Game Changer of some sort and the rules turned out to have no power at all in the face of it. I've seen what happens when you let go of the control and just let it go where it wants to go - I've seen relationships thrive with that kind of freedom and I've seen relationships die, either due to lack of nourishment from "letting it go" or due to the relationship "going" in places that couldn't sustain it.

I've experienced just about every kind of breakup imaginable, from the fade-away to the better-as-friends to the all-out-war to the cut-them-off-and-never-speak-to-them-again to even the death of a former partner. And what all this experience has taught me is that the future is uncertain, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry, rules only work until they don't, and no matter how bad it gets - if it doesn't kill me, I will survive it.*

I fear loss and change just like most people do. But I've learned that fearing loss and change doesn't matter to loss and change. Loss and change happen whether you deal with them or not. The best way to handle them is to accept that it'll happen, take a deep breath, and jump off that ledge anyway. With each successive breakup, I have learned a little more about how to handle Game Changers and my own fears of loss and change, and with each breakup I have gotten better at constructing my relationships to be flexible and accommodating of Game Changers. This, ultimately, actually builds relationships that are better able to withstand those Game Changers than any other method that attempts to prevent Game Changers from happening.



*That bullshit about whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger is crap - sometimes if it doesn't kill you, it still maims you pretty damn good, leaving you worse off than you were before. But if I'm not dead, I'm still alive, and that's not nothin'.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I haven't done one of these Media Reflections in a while.  That's where I take some form of popular media like a TV show or song and use it as a springboard for some kind of commentary, usually social commentary.  I'm not necessarily talking about the medium itself, it's not like a review or a critique, but it's more of an illustration for some larger point.






I saw this video on Facebook.  A photographer used a high speed camera to take really, ultra slow-motion video and still photography of people's faces as they got stunned by a stun gun.  It's an entertaining video for a lot of reasons, but there was a comment that the photgrapher made in the behind-the-scenes video that I really wanted to comment on.

"what we found was the reactions from these people were completely different. Some of the guys looked like they were in pain, a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience..."

There's this thing that happens.  Guy hits on girl and makes her uncomfortable.  Girl tries to find polite way out of the situation.  Guy complains about mixed messages, then tries harder.  Girl rants on Facebook about douchebag guys at bars.  Guy accuses her of friendzoning him, playing games, threatens her with unhappy future dating Neanderthal while passing up on Nice Guys, and whines about how bitches only like jerks.

So something that I used to do (and it's still a position that I hold, I just have more to it now) is urge women to be more active communicators and to be clearer about rejection.  I always felt compassion for guys who were forced to navigate this maze of ambiguous signals.  I need clear signals myself.  I always say that we can't expect anyone to read our minds, and, to paraphse [livejournal.com profile] tacit  "you can't reasonably expect to get what you want if you don't ask for it."  I want to break down this passive communication thing that our culture seems to encourage, and I want women to embrace their sexuality and their power and be assertive about what they want and don't want.

But, here's the thing:  currently, when women *are* assertive about what they want and don't want, they are punished for it.  So, yeah, it really sucks to be given all these coded messages that you have to decipher, and yeah, it really sucks to find out that someone who seemed to be enjoying your company actually thinks you're a wanker and wishes the ground would just swallow her up so that she doesn't have to listen to you anymore.  But you know what sucks more?  Telling someone to leave you alone, even nicely, only to have him physically threaten you for not enjoying his company.

I come across as this badass bitch online because I can hold my own in an argument.  But the truth of the matter is that I'm actually pretty severely conflict averse.  I really hate conflict and I try to avoid it.  The thing is that I dislike wrong more than I dislike conflict, so if I see a wrong, the pull to correct it might be stronger than the pull to avoid the inevitable conflict.  But what people don't see from their screens is all the time and effort I spend not correcting wrongs on the internet.  That's much more obvious in person, such as at some convention or another when my friend Heidi and I were both in a group discussion about something that I can't even remember, and some idiot started spouting off "women are just thus and such, blah blah, evo-psych, biologically determined, natter natter, bullshit".  I sat quietly in my chair with my hand curled in a fist at my mouth, rolling my eyes and evaluating how much he had to spew before I was willing to interject.  She even took a picture of me because she was so amused to see me going ballistic in my own head but not speaking out.

How this is relevant is that I have found myself in several occasions recently to need to be "rescued".  At a nightclub just in one night, my male friends had to physically drag me away from guys twice who had penned me into a corner and were getting too aggressive with me.  I tried to find polite and non-confrontational ways out of the situation before I resorted to outright conflict, but my male friends jumped in before I had to resort to that.  And I really appreciated the rescue at the same time that I bitterly resented the social convention that allowed me to escape from a situation with a man that I didn't want to be in only by being claimed by another man because my own wishes to escape were not important enough to heed.  This was not the only incident in recent weeks.

Now, for the tie-in.  Women are socially punished for things like rejecting people, for being aggressive, for being too expressive (particularly if they are expressing negative emotions like pain or sadness), for not being expressive enough (especially if they are not expressing positive emotions like joy, and they are expected to do so at all times), or for being unpleasant in any way.  I don't really want to get into a debate about nature vs. nurture so I'm not speculating on the cause, but I think this video actually showed the effects of the consequences for this sort of thing.

"The guys looked like they were in pain, and a lot of the girls looked like they were having a pleasurable experience."

Everyone was feeling the exact same sensation, but, generally speaking, the men expressed discomfort while the women did not even though the sensation was decidedly uncomfortable.  Now, this isn't a perfect analogy.  The photographer also said:

"When you got hit with this taser, it was enough to make you scream, jump up out of your chair, give some great expression and emotion, but it wasn't painful enough to 1) give you any kind of permanent damage or scar, and 2) it wasn't painful enough that you didn't want to do it again. I was shocked by how many people wanted to get back in the chair and get tased a second or third time just cuz it was so fun and entertaining."

I'm quite familiar with BDSM, and, in fact, I'm specifically familiar with electrical play.  So I do understand how something can be both painful and pleasurable, or uncomfortable and still fun.  Plus, this was at a bar and the participants volunteered to get tased, so they knew it was coming.  There's a certain amount of self-selecting at play here, although the photographer did say that about 99% of people who came through the door signed the waver and got tased.  But even accounting for the fact that this wasn't a terribly strong shock and there was some social expectation of this being a fun party-sort of experience, both the men and the women still felt the same thing, and yet most of the men expressed the pain while the women mostly showed expressions of not-pain (surprise, enjoyment, etc.).  A lot of people did get back in the chair, but the photographer also says elsewhere in the video that a lot of people didn't.  The subjects moved so fast that he didn't always get the shot and he had to ask people if they would be willing to do it again, and he says that a lot of people flat-out refused to get shocked a second time.  So, it might not be bad, like on a scale of 1-10 where 10 is the worst pain you can imagine (terrible scale, by the way), but it's not exactly a feather-tickle either.

I suspect that the observation that the photographer made had something to do with the way that women are discouraged from being unpleasant and men aren't.  And, whether that's a real connection or not, I want to use this observation as an analogy to help reinforce a lesson that I've been trying to drive home lately:  Just because a woman isn't expressing her displeasure, it doesn't mean that she's not displeased.  We cannot rely on "no means no" alone.  We cannot expect that everything is a "yes" until you hear that "no".  You have to assume that everything is a "no" until you hear that yes.

Yes, it does mean that we're fighting another sort of social inertia - getting women to be more assertive and to be active communicators.  But I believe that the consequences for getting it wrong in this direction are far less dire than getting it wrong in the other direction.  It might mean that someone isn't getting laid because they were too cautions with their signals or reading signals.  I'm sorry, that sucks.  But that's far more livable than the alternative, which is someone getting pressured, coerced, or forced because she's too afraid to assert herself for whatever reason she may have for being afraid.  Perhaps if the men (assuming a hetero audience, since that's where this whole dynamic is most relevant) were willing to band together and refuse sex to women who won't own up to wanting it, the women will learn to be more assertive.

Of course, it might help the women learn to be more assertive if they weren't also punished for admitting they want it, but that's a whole other rant.  The bottom line here is that you can't always trust from a woman's social behaviour (and sometimes even private behaviour) that she is not bothered or upset about something.  I know lots of guys who have gotten "handsy" with me when I didn't want them to, and for a variety of reasons, I didn't have them arrested for assault.  Some of them have commented on the fact that I seem to be smiling and even laughing a bit while I'm physically slapping their hands away or evading them.  I have said, flat-out, that I'm uncomfortable and nervous and this is my reaction to feeling uncomfortable.  It's not like I was being threatened with harm, not like someone was trying to punch me.  It's an in-between state where I'm uncomfortable, not in imminent danger.  I have no good reaction for that situation, but the one that has developed is an awkward smile, lack of eye contact, and an edging away.  This is fairly common among women in my culture.  And even after explaining, explicitly, that I'm uncomfortable and the smile or laughter is a sign that I'm uncomfortable, usually these men kept doing what they were doing because the smile was, apparently, encouraging.

So, if you don't have some kind of pre-existing relationship with someone where you can feel confident in their non-verbal communication, you really can't rely on a woman's behaviour to indicate her level of discomfort with the situation.  You have to get confirmation and you have to keep checking in for clear consent.  I know, it's scary to think of all the women who seemed to enjoy your presence and wonder how many of them were actually uncomfortable.  It's daunting and intimidating and if you think of it too hard, it might even be enough to make one throw up his hands and give up on dating entirely.  But, really, the solution to this problem is 2-fold:  1) keep checking in and excuse yourself a bit early (take the old advice to "always leave them wanting more"); and 2) change the culture by publicly supporting and encouraging women to be more assertive while publicly discouraging things that punish them for exactly that, including talking to other men about how it's shooting themselves in the foot every time they gossip about who's being slutty or talk about their girlfriends or ex-girlfriends, or that goddamn revenge porn, or any number of other things that feminists everywhere have been complaining about forever.  #2 will take longer, but they're both equally important.  In fact, being seen doing #2 will help make the women in your life feel more safe about being honest with their feelings and reactions when you do #1.  If a woman feels safe expressing her discomfort around you, then you're less likely to get those confusing "mixed signals" from her, and you can be confident that her consent is an active consent.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)
I posted this on my FB page, and it was an off-the-cuff sort of thing in the heat of a moment of irritation at remembering past relationships.  I wasn't expecting it to be as popular as it got.  But I'm getting requests left and right to share it in other groups, so I guess I hit a nerve with some people.  Since it seems to mean a lot to some people, I figure I ought to post it somewhere just a little easier to re-find than FB.  It'll probably end up on my website sooner or later.  For bonus points,

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to institute a structure in which I get what I want but you don't get the same thing, and somehow rationalize it away as 'fair' using any number of pop psych / evo-psych terms or logical fallacies or other forms of mental gymnastics."

Rules-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to magnanimously sacrifice my desire so that you can't do it either, and that way I never have to face the underlying issue about why it's OK for me to want it but not OK for you to do it. If we both can't do it, then it's 'fair'."

Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it bothers me to think of you doing it. I am completely aware that this is a double standard and there is no rational reason for it. This doesn't mean that you can't do it, but it does mean that I will probably have a freak-out if you do, and I'd like to ask for your help and support to get through it so that you have the freedom to make choices about your life and I still feel nurtured when I hit an insecurity."

Rules-based Masquerading As Boundary-based: "There's something that I want to do but it makes me feel icky to think of you doing it, so I'm going to grudgingly allow you to do it and use my reaction as a weapon every time you do, so that you will begin to make choices based on *my* insecurities and you'll think that it's 'fair' because your sacrifice will be by 'choice'. You don't want to *hurt* me, right?"



Option #1 - e.g. One Penis Policy (but she only WANTS women, so there's nothing wrong with making a RULE about it!)

Option #2 - Relationship By Hostage Situation

Option #4 - You Keep Using That Word "Boundary"; I Don't Think It Means What You Think It Means.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
In our collective fear of "looking like the bad guy", of being unwilling to say "you're wrong", in our social insistence that we "educate" people who are doing harmful things using a kind tone and hand-holding them to a "better" way, instead of flat-out condemning harmful behaviour, I wonder what kind of impact that has on abuse victims.

When a person has spent a lifetime, or even just a few months of being gaslighted and having their self-esteem eroded and disempowered and programmed to subsume their own needs and concerns to another, how much harder is it for them to learn how to advocate for their needs and/or gather the strength to leave a harmful situation when the message they receive from their community is that, on top of all their pain and suffering, in addition to their own self-doubt, they also have to consider the feelings of their abuser (or other abusive people who remind them of their abuser because they do similar things) and lead their abuser to a "more successful strategy"?

Because, remember, we're talking about people who are already not well; people who have already internalized massively destructive amounts of negative feelings like guilt and shame.  Someone who is in healthy relationships or someone who has a healthy sense of self can afford to hear the message "be nice to people who just don't have good relationship skills yet and teach them how to improve" and they can identify those situations for which that advice is useful and when it's not.

If you ever wanted to know why they stay, it’s probably because of a deep sense of responsibility and compassion, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, and a deep and pervasive confusion about how to make it right. If you ever wanted to know why it’s hard to talk about it, it’s because the thing you always seem to remember the most, the thing that really hurts the most, is the guilt over hurting them, abandoning them.

But someone who has been broken by another person, someone who is fucked over, someone who has lost themselves, someone who is trapped, someone who isn't as strong, someone who needs help themselves, all those people - how can they hear that message in their state and not similarly internalize the, perhaps unintended, subtext "the person you are in opposition to has delicate feels and it's YOUR JOB to treat those delicate feels like precious Fabrege Eggs, no matter what you're feeling.  It's rude to lose your temper, it's rude to call them names, it's rude to arm yourself with condescension or to defend yourself with sarcasm, and you don't want to be rude, do you?"

There's a heart-breakingly beautiful blog post about what it feels like to be emotionally abused.  After reading that, I find myself getting even more enraged than usual at the relentless admonitions to be "nice" when we come across posts in the community with all the same, tired old tropes that those who have been in abusive situations are all too familiar with as the first steps towards abusing someone - dehumanization, objectification, disempowerment.

He pulled his arm back again and I covered my face again. "Why are you doing this to me?" he pleaded, coming at me over and over. Finally, I stood up and pushed him back. "Stop abusing me!" he shouted. I stopped, stunned. Why did I do that? I looked at his arms, red from where I had blocked him. Why was I hurting him so much?

"Be nice."  "Try educating them instead of name-calling."  "They just don't know any better, you should make yourself vulnerable and tell your own story so that they understand."  "Don't say it's wrong, explain gently that there are lots of different ways to do things and some of them are a little better."  Fuck that. As activists in the feminist and anti-racism communities have been arguing about for decades, stop getting mad at people for yelling when the reason they're yelling is because someone else is stepping on their toes.  Or, as Tim Minchin said in a totally unrelated song:

And if you don't like the swearing
That this motherfucker forced from me
And reckon it shows moral
Or intellectual paucity
Then fuck you, motherfucker
This is language one employs
When one is fucking cross
About fuckers fucking boys

I'm wondering how many abuse victims, and how many people in perhaps toxic or unhealthy but not quite "abusive" relationships, are hearing the constant message to be "nice" to people doing bad things, and have not been able to adequately stand up for themselves because they don't want to be perceived as "not nice"?  I'm wondering how many people we, as a community, are enabling people to remain in bad situations because we're so fucking pathologically afraid of calling others "bad" or, not even calling them bad people but just telling them that they're wrong or that they're doing something wrong or bad?  And I'm wondering how many people dishing out this advice can do so because they've never been in the position where advocating for their needs in any tone has been equated with being "rude" and where their deep sense of compassion and guilt has been manipulated so that they can't tell the difference between standing up for themselves vs. actually hurting innocent people so they don't do the former out of fear of the latter?  I'm wondering how many people playing the Tone Card are living in the privileged position of never having been abused and are speaking from their position of privilege when they tell other abuse survivors how they ought to experience their survival and how they ought to react to their triggers?

How many people continue to go unsaved because we're more concerned with etiquette and delicate abuser-feels than with creating an atmosphere that encourages people to believe that their feelings are not less important than being polite to those stepping on their toes?  How many people remain lost because we don't give them the space to be angry, to be strong, to fight back, because it's "rude" and we mustn't ever be rude.  Anger and defensiveness have no place in polite society because the people who are doing things worth getting angry about might feel bad, and we can't ever let them feel bad about hurting you, can we?
joreth: (Super Tech)
"No, I don't go to that club anymore alone."

"Why? Did something happen?"

"I stopped going there alone after I kept getting assaulted."

"You got beat up?"

"No, I got groped and pinned against a table, I got assaulted. One time I got assaulted by two different guys in the same night."

[relieved] "Oh, I thought you meant you got attacked! I mean, it's still bad."

I DID get attacked. I was put in a position where I was afraid for my safety. Each time I've been assaulted in this particular location, I had to be "rescued" by a friend who was observing from across the room. On one of these rescue occasions, the guy assaulting me turned verbally angry and made as if to follow after us when my friend pulled me away. The assaulter's friend stopped him.

I just posted a link to a story of two women who were violently assaulted after rejecting catcallers - one who died and one who is in critical condition. What happened to me at the club, what happens to me frequently in public spaces, could very easily turn into one of those news stories. There's no way to tell, until it happens.

I was touched, deliberately, in places I should never be touched without consent (and don't split hairs about *all* touching should receive consent, I mean even guys who want to excuse small violations agree about these locations - at least, they do when it's their girlfriends who get touched there by someone who isn't them or daughters get touched there by pretty much anyone). I was physically trapped with a man pressing his entire body against mine and into a table so that I could not leave without pushing back. I was forcibly grabbed, held in an embrace, and guys attempted to kiss me while I was CLEARLY resisting.

These are assaults. These are violations. They are not less serious just because I didn't get a black eye out of it. I got worse than a black eye. I got the fear that it would happen again and a restriction put on my ability to attend public functions. They are assaults and they are just as likely to escalate to a murder as a drunk idiot shoving another drunk idiot at a bar. And they are *common*.

It may seem like these incidents are happening all of a sudden to me, but they've always happened. I just didn't bother writing about them because they were so common. This is just the price of being a female in public. I no longer believe that I shouldn't bother writing about them just because they're common. That's the only reason you may be hearing about these assaults more often from me lately. Too many of you still don't understand why it's wrong, or maybe you get that it's wrong but not why some of us react so strongly to it (hey, it's annoying, but it's not a big DEAL ladies, just relax!), and too many of you still think it's "flattering", or that you'd "love it if more women treated [you] that way" or that it's a rare occurrence, or that it's motivated by sexual attraction and there are things women can do to prevent it from happening.

Or even that it's perpetrated by some mythical minority of evil bush-leaping rapists instead of just an average guy who bought the social script that tells us all that women are here to be looked at, that men are the sexual aggressors, that a "no" means "try harder", that women are the "gatekeepers" of sex, that a woman is a prize that a man can win if he just has the right clothes / car / job / amount of money / haircut / physique like winning the princess at the end of the level, or that women do *anything* in order to attract men.

I wish that all men-who-are-attracted-to-women could exist for a while without sight (and without the memory of the appearance of any women they knew prior to losing their sight). They'd have to experience the world without being able to look upon women and therefore treat women according to how they feel about looking at them. They'd have to interact with women as humans, instead of as creatures there for their entertainment. They couldn't laugh at her fat ass, they couldn't whistle at her tight ass, they couldn't rate her job performance based on whether they'd like to fuck her or not.

And then all women-who-have-relationships-with-men could experience something that I had the rare opportunity to experience - what it's like to be respected and admired, yes even in a romantic sense, by someone who knows you only for who you are inside; someone who can't be ignoring what he doesn't like in order to get sex from the body he does like; someone who can't be merely tolerating an unpleasant appearance because of the inner person or out of obligation for preexisting commitments or even inertia of an ongoing relationship. To have been cherished, even briefly, by someone who had no choice but to see me as I am without any sort of distraction from the shell that I reside in was one of the most amazing opportunities I've ever had.

Any body image issues magically disappeared for that experience. What has returned now that I'm living once again among the sighted is so much less than those issues I see my friends suffering. To be able to see myself through the eyes of someone without eyes was a life-changing experience and I wish the epiphany on everyone, if it could be done without fetishizing a disability.
joreth: (Misty in Box)
http://feministing.com/2014/10/04/the-feministing-five-darius-clark-monroe/

"Darius Clark Monroe is transforming the ways media portrays incarcerated young black men, starting with his own story. At the age of 16, Darius committed armed robbery, which dramatically impacted his life as well as those around him. After serving five years in a maximum security prison, Darius has since earned a MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and launched his career in documentary film."

The link above is an interview with filmmaker and criminal Darius Clark Monroe, as he talks about his new autobiographical documentary on crime, poverty, and race.

"Poverty and working class poverty are relevant. A lot of times when we think about poverty we are thinking about people that don’t have a home, family, friends. There are people that do have those things but they are just surviving. People need understand that we live in a society of great disparity."

I'm not black, and most people in Florida can't see my Latina heritage, so I have some privilege in this area. But I am working class poverty, and possibly *because* I'm not black and appear white, most people can't see that I'm working class poor either. I am not the exception. Working class poverty is a huge problem, and it's most certainly not the Welfare Queen or the lazy drug addict sucking off the government's teat that some politicians have managed to convince everyone that this is what poverty is.

Even people who know me and who see how I live, even people who live close to my own level of poverty, seem to think that I'm somehow an exception - that I'm not like all those other people on food stamps or welfare or unemployment checks, that when *I* point out that my latest-generation iPod was a gift that I couldn't afford on my own, it's the truth but someone in the checkout line with foodstamps and an iPhone MUST be cheating the taxpayers. All my fancy costumes and dance outfits? Thrift stores, gifts, purchased over years and years of collecting bits and pieces that eventually make it into an outfit. But if you didn't know that, you might think I was financially comfortable with my dresses and shoes and costumes. They're a chance for me to escape into a fantasy where I can pretend that I'm not poor and not worried about survival every moment of my waking day.

My biggest concern with my weight is that I won't fit into my existing wardrobe and I'll have to buy more clothes that I can't afford.  I pay attention to my size because of poverty, not vanity.  I can't *afford* to gain weight.  I suppose that poverty helps in that regard because I don't always eat enough to gain weight anyway.  But sometimes I do have enough money for food and access to the kinds of rich foods that cause weight gain, and then I freak out because I can't fit into my clothes again and I have to spend money to replace clothes that are still perfectly servicable, they're just too small.  I don't get rid of my clothes until they literally can't be worn anymore.  I can't afford to.

I am not the exception. And let me tell you, life has gotten a lot harder since I stopped stealing my food. There was a time that the only reason I ate was because I was a very good thief. That was a very long time ago. Morals and ethics are expensive, it turns out, but I do my best to maintain them. I still understand the motivations that drives someone to crime. And I understand that the vast majority of these sorts of crimes can be prevented if we take care of those motivations, if we help people move past "just surviving".
joreth: (Super Tech)
https://medium.com/substance/gay-latino-and-macho-c931e022ec47

Boy did this bring on unpleasant memories. I grew up in California, straddling the boundaries between suburbia and the barrio. My adopted mom is Mexican and my adopted dad is white, but my biological mother is white and my biological father is, well, we just say "Mexican" because my bio-mom only vaguely remembers that his family actually came from one of the indigenous tribes in Mexico but she can't remember which one. So I could be Aztec or Maya or Zapotec or Mixtec or Tepehuan or who knows.

Anyway, I grew up in a culture clash. I didn't look white enough for my blonde-haired, blue-eyed private school classmates, but I didn't look brown enough for my Spanish-speaking, gang-member peers in church either. My parents enforced gender roles, but it was from my mom's side that I got the exposure to Mexican gender roles and I had no brothers and a white father, so I kind of got introduced to Machismo through implication, not direct influence. But the guys I went to church with sure got that lesson in abundance. Let me tell you, my early dating years were a trial. I dated almost exclusively white men because I had such problems with the Chicanos attempting to enforce Machismo-based gender roles in our relationships. Although my comparatively fair skin (which was actually much darker than it is today because I was a competitive swimmer and in the sun a lot when I was a teen) mixed with the long dark hair traditionally prized in Mexican cultures and bold indigenous nose made me somewhat exotic yet familiar and attractive to exactly those same boys and men that I was trying to avoid because of their Machismo culture.

I went to a private school, but because it was a private school, it didn't have a school bus so I took the city bus home until I was old enough to get a car. The city bus went through the lowest-income (a.k.a. Hispanic) areas of town although I lived in an almost exclusively white middle-class neighborhood. I learned to change out of my school uniform before getting on the bus because my uniform was blue and this was the height of the Bloods and Crips wars which had reached such epic proportions as to have bled north into my hometown far away from East L.A. I couldn't be caught wearing blue either by a Blood gang member who would hurt me or by a Crip gang member who would hit on me.

On top of that, several years ago I learned some interesting things about my biological father. In addition to being Mexican, he was also a cross-dresser. My biological mother and his current girlfriend both insist that he's straight. He could be, or he could be bisexual, or he could be like the "straight" Rios in the article which really means a very good straight-acting gay man. I'm not sure and it's not really relevant. But the reason why I can only relate the suppositions of my bio-mom and his girlfriend is because he went into hiding to protect himself from his parents (my grandparents) from finding out about his cross-dressing.

Back in the '70s, my bio-mom discovered his interest in wearing women's clothes. She didn't break up with him over it, but she did tell him that she didn't want to see or know anything about it and that he was to keep it from her completely. Out of the people he loved the most at that time, this was the most mild response to his non-gender-conforming ways. His parents were the sort of abusive religious parents that Valesquez in the article had. My bio-father was so terrorized by his religious mother and his Machismo culture that, as soon as he could, he escaped his family and could only be reached by pager (at a time when smartphones were not available but cellphones were nevertheless readily available, circa 2005-ish), from which he would then return calls via payphone so that his parents couldn't discover his location or his actual phone to harass him. He did still have some contact with his parents, but I gather that was because he still had younger siblings that he didn't want to lose entirely.

The last thing I heard about him was from his girlfriend. I had found out his full name and tracked him down to his city of residence, so I sent an introduction letter to everyone with that name in that city, just hoping to let him know of my existence. One of those letters found the right man, because his girlfriend came across that letter one day and called me to tell me that I had found him. She wanted to respect his desire to remain unfound but also wanted to reassure me that I had reached him. In order to confirm that I had reached the right person, we talked a little about him and that's how I found out about his current circumstances.

She confirmed that his home life was unbearable and his parents were crazy religious nuts who terrorized him in a manner consistent with Machismo culture. She also confirmed that he did cross-dress, and she had issued the same sort of restriction as my bio-mom - that he keep all aspects of his lifestyle from her because it made her uncomfortable. But he wasn't just cross-dressing anymore either. He was working as either a bouncer or a bartender (I forget which, now) in a gay club that has a drag show. And, apparently, this job was a source of extreme joy and relief to him as well as a major source of cognitive dissonance because it clashed with his internalized Machismo. The girlfriend wasn't really sure what to do about all this. I suspect that bouncer/bartender and "straight" were still whitewashing his activities, but his girlfriend apparently needed to believe that these were the limits to his behaviour.

I don't have any particular personal feelings towards this man because he's a stranger to me. I never internalized the message that we have to love people we're related to. Since I was adopted, sharing DNA with someone wasn't the important connection point in my loving relationships. But I do feel a sense of pity for him, because of all the people in his life, the daughter he doesn't want to acknowledge is probably the one person he is related to either by blood or marriage, who would completely accept him for who he is and even actively celebrate his life choices. With me, he wouldn't have to be anyone other than who he is.

But like Rios in the article, because of the lengths he's going to hide his activities, I believe that even my acceptance of him wouldn't be welcome. I believe he is so indoctrinated in Machismo culture that he would probably be offended at my acceptance. Just like Rios who insists on raising his own sons in the Machismo culture, I think that the freedom that acceptance by me would afford him would be threatening to his own internalized homophobia and misogyny. He would probably be very opposed to my own gender nonconformism because, as a female, I consistently attack and break down my own role as a woman in society and that would, by extension, attack his own Machismo culture even as he chafes against it.

So this was kind of a hard article to read, especially the part about Rios and the internalization and perpetuation of Machismo culture by someone who is so directly harmed by it. People who haven't grown up in this culture, especially people who are naturally predisposed to fit the status quo, like to think that we're much further along in our social progress. I hear a lot of lamenting about the "sissyfication" of boys and emasculating men, and all I can think when I hear that is that they must not have ever stepped outside of their houses before because Machismo is alive and well, and even more macho than the pissant white-boy misogynists think they are. Chuck Norris, Clint Eastwood, and The Duke have nothing on the average Hispanic male raised in the Machismo culture.

And that's NOT something to brag about, that's something to be deeply troubled about.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)
The questions at the end of Chapter 8, Taming The Green-Eyed Monster in More Than Two describe an ex I had once so well that, if I didn't know better, I'd swear the authors peeked inside his brain and used that for inspiration.  Only he would never have admitted to being that insecure. I had to get it out of him in bits and pieces and round-about implications and, in one case, pushing him into a corner so hard that he finally blurted out an admission, which he immediately back peddled on.  I would never have guessed how insecure he was until I started dating him.  But then, the effort he put into hiding his insecurity was such a huge sign, it was kind of like how scientists discover things like dark matter or the "edges" of the universe based on how everything else around it are behaving.  You might not be able to see the signs of the insecurity itself, but the signs of him hiding insecurity are pretty strong, once you know what to look for.

That was one of my few bad breakups and now I'm pretty gun shy about dating people with severe insecurity.

Now that I think about it, my worst breakups were all with guys with crippling insecurity and my abusive, pathologically lying ex-fiancé also had a deep, deep insecurity about his self worth. His abuse expressed itself in a restrictive, behaviour-controlling way and in enforcing strict gender roles. Because it wouldn't do to have his future wife be better at fixing cars than he was. Everything about himself hinged on comparisons to others, so he needed to control me in order to control his own sense of self worth.  My ex-fiancé started out in small ways, like most abusers do.  He started out with, what seemed at the time, a charming humility revolving around the idea that I was "out of his league", so my reciprocated interest in him made him feel "lucky" to have attracted "someone like [me]".

But that pervasive idea turns out to be far more destructive than charming.  It escalated from a few comments here and there expressing his wonder at my interest in him, to constant, deliberate attempts to provoke jealousy in me, to literally making up entire social circles and several ex-girlfriends, to faking illness in an attempt to get me to cancel my plans (and not just social plans, but going to class and work too) to stay home and care for him, to outright sexual assault and the threat of physical harm and property damage if I left - not just him, but if I left the bedroom to sleep on the couch in order to get away from his advances.  It always starts out small, and charming.  People don't get into abusive relationships because a stranger beat the shit out of them and they thought "hey, that was kind of sexy, I should date this person!"  They get into abusive relationships because the abuse is incremental so the victim can't see that it's abusive until they've invested so much into the relationship that they become victims of another sort - of the Entrenchment Effect.

Unfortunately, the more exposure I have to abusive partners, the easier it is to see the warning signs. I say "unfortunately" because I can see the patterns in most of the arguments I get into online, and it frightens me to know so many people out there have destructive tendencies that could turn abusive with just the right trigger, like another ex of mine, who didn't abuse me but did abuse his other gf because she had just the right combination of traits to push his insecurities to the breaking point where he became abusive in order to take back the control he felt he was losing.

Pretty much no one in our overlapping social circles sees the abuse lurking behind his closed doors.  No one believes it when I mention it.  More than one person has said to me, after hearing the story, that it sounds like I'm talking about two different people.  Multiple people, including myself and his other ex, have expressed the idea that there are really two of him - the kind, funny, likeable bloke we all know and love, and the dark, twisted, self-deluded, self-loathing manipulative man who managed to trap one of the most intelligent, self-introspective, progressive women I've ever met in an abusive relationship that spiraled out of control so fast that none of us knew what happened until it was over.  I think this abusive monster living inside his head was always there, but that not everyone could have called it out of hiding.  I believe this because he didn't abuse me.  When he tried to do the same things that he was doing to her, he also started out small and almost-reasonable, but I was already primed to be averse to his tricks and he dumped me after only a couple of days of beginning his attempt.  I think that his other partner was exactly the right mix of her own insecurities and button-pushing habits that made her vulnerable to the abuse spiral they found themselves in.  And, as only hindsight can, the signs in him are now clearly matched to the signs in my own abusive
ex-fiancé, and the ex I mentioned at the beginning, and a couple of other exes that didn't make it into this narrative.

I see those signs in people and it's terrifying how much social support they have for defending their insecurities and how few people are appalled at the inevitable train wreck when they ought to be.  Even I brushed them off.  I remember having an argument with someone who called what that ex did to his other partner "abusive" and I disagreed.  I said that I was in an abusive relationship before, and he said that I ought to be able to recognize abuse in this case then, and I said it was different.  To my credit, there were some details that I was missing, but I am afraid that I still might have defended the abuse for a while before admitting it.  I've now had quite a lot of exposure to abusive partners, and partners who may not be abusive, per se, but who are so insecure that they are toxic partners.  And I see a lot of things in common; a lot of things that, with hindsight, clearly led to the patterns of behaviour that eventually became abusive or toxic.  These things aren't just things *could* lead to abuse or toxic behaviour, these are things that are *missing* from relationships that are not toxic or abusive.

I see some of the early warning signs now.  I see how certain things are symptoms of deeper issues.  And I see communities and society being blind to the connections.  So when these symptoms pop up, say, in online discussion forums, I can connect the dots.  But people who haven't been through abusive relationships, or have only been through one and haven't developed the wider-reaching pattern recognition the same way that I hadn't seen the pattern with the ex who abused his other partner, those people see only isolated, unrelated, unconnected elements that seem harmless at best, or even deceptively charming at worst.  So someone will display a trait that I now know to be related to a much deeper issue that could (if it hasn't already) lead to abuse or toxic behaviour, and I'll call it out, and the entire community will rally around the other person behind cries of "No True Way!" and "you're hurting my feelings!" and "you're picking on me!" and "it's just a joke, relax!" and a host of other things designed to dismiss, derail, or distract from a very uncomfortable possibility that maybe we have more abusers among us than we'd like to believe ... that maybe we, ourselves, have the capability of harming our loved ones with our own insecurities.

Insecurities are almost like living beings themselves.  They fight for survival and they'll pull out any weapon they can to keep existing.  They'll alter our perception of reality, they'll make us justify our actions, they'll make us dig in our heels and double-down, they'll make us turn our own victims into abusers and ourselves into victims, they'll displace blame, they'll make us believe that someone else is hurting us even when no one is doing anything to us but ourselves, and more.  This makes me very frightened and very sad when our entire culture springs up around to defend insecurities and the people offering help or suggestions for living more securely are ganged up on, usually for their "tone", "arrogance", or "militantism" when the reality is that more people ought to be frightened and outraged at the harm being done in the name of protecting insecurities.

joreth: (Purple Mobius)

The following is a paraphrase of a conversation I had recently.  The first sentence is a direct quote, but the rest is basically a summary of what was said following that first sentence.  I have lots of reasons to be afraid in love, as do many people.  Change is inevitable and my crystal ball is in the shop so I can't predict what form that change will take.  And that's scary.  But I leap into love anyway, even with my fears.  And there are things that I do not fear.  One of the things that I have learned to fear about love (not within love) is that people will not respect my independence or my agency, and to discover that only after I've started to love them is very painful.  So when I find people who do respect my agency, it is a rare and wondrous thing.  It is a liberating experience to feel this sort of love and to be loved by someone in this way.  Although this came from a specific conversation that I had, it actually applies to both of my current long-term partners.  I might even say that this is part of the reason *why* these men are my partners at this point in my life.  Respecting my right to make my own life choices, even if it comes at their own expense, is one of the most valuable qualities I can find in another person.

People talk about "unconditional love" - I don't believe that really exists because I don't believe people really understand how big that word "unconditional" really is.  But when they talk about "unconditional love", I do believe that this is the kind of love they think they mean.  This is definitely the closest I've ever seen anyone come to "unconditional" - the ability to love someone enough to trust that the choices that they make for themselves are right for them even if it hurts one to have their partner make those choices, and the ability to love someone enough to risk that kind of hurt, knowingly, consciously, deliberately, to take that chance.

"I'm not afraid to love you because I know you'll let me go if I need to leave. I also know it'll hurt you if I leave so letting me go won't be because you don't care, but precisely because you do care. Your willingness to love me and risk being hurt by me is another reason I'm not afraid to love you. I'm also not afraid to love you because I already know that our relationship can flex and accommodate change, so I'm not driven by fear of an uncertain future."
I once had a conversation with someone who said that, although he enjoyed being in a poly relationship while he was in it, and he respected that it is a valid choice for others, he preferred to be in a monogamous relationship because he preferred to have a partner who cared about what he did.  He said that it hurt him too much to be involved with someone who didn't care what he did or who he did it with.  I was so stunned that this is what he thought polyamory was about, that I couldn't even respond in the moment.  And that conversation has been bouncing around in my head for a good long while now.  Because, in my experience, polyamory doesn't work if the partners "don't care" what the other does, and jealousy is the opposite of "caring" about the other person.

Jealousy is the epitome of selfishness and lack of caring for the other person.  That doesn't mean that anyone who feels jealousy is a bad person.  No one is their best self at all times.  We can all be selfish and petty and childish and other not-best-self things, that's not a judgement that I'm making about anyone.  But jealousy is not about caring for someone else.  It's about caring about ourselves, about prioritizing ourselves.  That's not necessarily and automatically a bad thing either, in principle, but in the context of jealousy, I do believe that it needs to be addressed.

The reason why I say that jealousy is selfish is because jealousy is fundamentally a fear-based reaction towards someone else's behaviour or person about "how does this affect me?"  Jealousy is being afraid of how something will affect me, of fearing or assuming that something will affect me in a way that I don't want.  Jealousy is not a fear on behalf of someone else, it's all about me, although it can masquerade as a fear on their behalf.  If my partner has sex with someone else, and I'm jealous because I'm afraid he'll leave me for someone else, that's an emotion based on what will happen to me, not what is in my partner's best interests or what is best for him.  If I'm jealous (or envious) because he's doing something that I want to do too, that's all about me, not what is best for him or what will make him happy.  If I'm jealous because someone is trying to "get between" us or trying to "steal him away" or trying to destroy what we have, that's all about what I will be losing, not about what will make him happy or what's best for him.

Wanting to be with my partner, not wanting to be without him, wanting to experience something, wanting to experience something with him specifically, wanting to continue our relationship - none of those are bad things and wanting those things does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy does not make me a bad person.  Jealousy is a sign that something is wrong.  But it is fundamentally a selfish concern - wanting something for our own sake *without regard to what's best for the other person*.  By the very definition of the word, jealousy is selfish.

Which means that jealousy is not a sign that someone cares about or loves *me*.  It *can* be borne out of caring or loving someone, for instance if the reason why I don't want my partner to leave me is because I love him.  But it's not a sign, itself, of love.

True love is not being more concerned with what my partner does without me than with how he feels about what he's doing.  I can be concerned *and* love him at the same time.  But being concerned about my partner having other partners is not a sign that I "care" *about him*.  It's a sign that I care about me and how what he's doing affects me and what I want.  True love is being more concerned with what my partner wants for himself than with what I want for him based on how I feel about what's right for him.  Engaging in relationships in which my partners have the freedom to do what they want to do, be who they want to be, even if that means they leave me, is the ultimate sign of caring for my partners, because it places their happiness for themselves as priority.  People say that being a parent is an act of true love.  But parents have to let their children go, to live their own lives, and once they become adults (some of us would argue on when that point is, but that's irrelevant to the point I'm making now) their lives are now their own.  My relationships with my partners are no less a truer love than a parent for a child, for all that it's a different love in structure (romantic, vs. familial).

And since I only have romantic relationships with adults, that means that I have to skip right to the "let them live their own lives" stage of the love.  They *have* to be able to make choices that are right for them.  And sometimes those choices will hurt me.  Sometimes my choices will hurt them.  That's the risk we take when we make ourselves vulnerable to another human, which is another part of what love is.  Contrary to pop culture, love does not mean never having to say you're sorry.  It means knowing that you will have to say you're sorry at some point, and that they will have to say they're sorry at other points, and trusting that you both will actually be sorry after the inevitable hurt occurs.  It means knowing that you will each cause each other pain and trusting each other with your most vulnerable parts (your heart and soul) by believing that the pain is a cost worth the benefits of being able to share those vulnerable parts with each other, and that the pain won't outnumber or outweigh the pleasure.

And sometimes it turns out to not be worth the cost.  Sometimes we guess wrong.  But the love that once was is a true love even after deciding that the cost was too high, *if* we trusted each other with our most vulnerable parts.  And that trust requires us letting go.  We can feel jealous and insecure and that we think they're making a mistake.  We can feel those things and still love, truly, deeply, honestly.  But in order for it to be love, we can't stop there.  We can feel those things, but we have to let go anyway.  If we truly love someone, we have to recognize their agency, their autonomy, their ability to decide for themselves what is right for themselves.  Even if that means we feel hurt because of it.  I am not afraid to love my partners, not because I think we won't ever hurt each other, but because we each acknowledge that sometimes we will hurt each other, but we trust and we hope that we will each do what is best for ourselves because love means wanting the best life for the other person, even if that life doesn't include us.

Related reading:

Related Viewing:





https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o





‪#‎ConversationsIHave‬ ‪#‎ThePeopleInRelationshipsAreMoreImportantThanTheRelationships‬ ‪#‎GoodPartnerSelectionSolvesManyProblems‬ ‪#‎FlexibilityInRelstionshipsCreatesStrongRelationships‬ ‪#‎ThankYouForTheOpportunityToExperienceThisKindOfLove‬

joreth: (Kitty Eyes)
Empathy is one of the most difficult senses for people to feel. People think that the goal is to put themselves in the other person's position, but that's not it. If I were to put myself in someone else's position, I would not be in their position. I would have my own experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters while in that position and I *could not* experience what they experience.

Empathy is attempting to understand what it's like to actually *be* that other person, complete with their experiences, thoughts, opinions, and filters. I can't try to understand someone who is afraid of heights by thinking "well, if I were standing on that ladder where they are, I just wouldn't look down". I do not have a phobia of heights. I can climb a ladder without feeling afraid. I can climb a ladder without looking down. I can climb a ladder without the intrusive thoughts and physiological responses that paralyze me and cause me to break out in a cold sweat.

If I wanted to understand someone who is afraid of heights, I cannot put *myself*, as I am, in their position. I have to understand what a fear of heights actually FEELS like. I have to know what it's like to climb a ladder and have a flood of hormones and chemicals rush through my body making me shake, making my heart race, making my body temperature drop, and literally preventing my limbs from moving.  I cannot put "myself" there, I have to understand what it's like to BE them.

It's really easy to say "when someone bullies you, just stand up to them" if you are in a body capable of defending yourself, in an economic class where people will back up your claims of being bullied, have a brain that can look at an attacker, mental or physical, and react in exactly the right way that will prevent the bully from continuing.

It's really easy to say "if you want to get out of poverty, work hard and move up the corporate ladder" if you are in a body capable of doing the work, have a brain capable of producing the sorts of answers that impress one's superiors, in an economic class that allows you the time to get a job or the education to get a better job, in a situation that doesn't actively hinder efforts, and are in other classes that are not automatically distrusted and discriminated against even if you're brilliant at everything else.

It's really easy to say "just get off the couch and go to work and stop moping around" if you are in a body capable of lifting itself off the couch, have a brain that actually causes the body to respond to "get off the couch" electrical signals, or are in a situation that provides coping mechanisms and strategies for overcoming chemical impulses that are counter-productive to the goal.

But do you know what it feels like to have a body that doesn't work? A brain that sends the wrong chemicals and the wrong electrical signals? A situation that fundamentally changes the very pathways in your brain to produce a personality that CANNOT do the things that you can do?  Do you know what it feels like to be someone else?

Empathy is either being able to actually imagine those things or acknowledging that you can't imagine them but that it is a valid subjective experience for the other person. And empathy is how we will arrive at solutions.
joreth: (Super Tech)
When I was still in film school, I started up a little film company with a couple of my school buddies (that went nowhere). The guy in the producer's role used to say "as long as you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing." If you've ever seen Wag The Dog, Dustin Hoffman's role as producer is totally my old producer.

I grew up having the curiosity and courage beat out of me. Literally. I was picked on and bullied and had the shit kicked out of me for most of puberty. Every idea I had, my parents were right there to explain to me why it couldn't work, why I shouldn't go out on a limb, why I should play it safe. I didn't learn until well into my 30s that my mother actually thinks I have a beautiful singing voice, that she likes my dancing, and that she thought I was a very graceful swimmer (I was a competitive swimmer for a while). I faced discouragement from many angles.

But not all angles. I had teachers who encouraged me. The meaning of the word "encourage" is "to inspire courage". I had quite a few teachers who told me that I could do anything, be anything. I was encouraged to write. I was encouraged to act and sing and dance. I was encouraged to be good at math and science. I was encouraged to be athletic. I was encouraged to drop everything and go into the entertainment field as a technician, which is what I did.

I've always walked this strange line between timidity and bravery. On the one hand, I was terrified to sing in public and I did not express myself enough to convince my parents to get me singing lessons. On the other hand, I went out and taught myself how to read sheet music and to play piano when I was 8 years old, and then in high school, I went by myself to join a church that my family was not a member of just so that I could sing in their choir. I'm full of contradictions.

I am a brave and courageous soul trapped in a timid and fearful body. But by the time I met my producer, my body was having trouble containing my soul. "Did you live? Did it make a good story? Then it was worth it."

I've lived through being stalked and chased up a water tower by a mountain lion in the middle of the night, where I stayed until sunrise when we could verify that the lion really was gone. It makes a great story. Without consulting anyone, I bought an ancient school bus, converted it to a motorhome, and set off 3,000 miles across the country with no job, no house, and only one friend waiting for me on the other end. It makes a great story.

Every time I get my heart broken, my inclination is to pull back, pull inside, go back where it's safe. But then I remember that I won't 't have any more great stories. I live for the great stories, the grand adventures. I haven't had very many lately. I have some good stories - I have far too many interests not to be interesting and not to have some stories to tell. But my life is my ultimate Great Story, my Grandest Adventure. I'm not done yet. So when I start to freeze up, to fear the uncertainty, to grasp for the comfortable, I try to remind myself - if you live through it and it makes a good story, it's worth doing. Get out there and make a story worth telling; have a grand adventure. You're not done telling your story yet.
joreth: (Purple Mobius)

Rules:  Why We Make Them, Where They Can Go Wrong - http://bit.ly/1pSe1cS

"One of the things that came up on that hashtag again and again, though, was the idea that abusers can gain power over their victims by making their victims doubt their own judgment. “You can’t be trusted.” “You don’t make good decisions.” “You mess things up.” “You have poor judgment.” “I have to make decisions for you or you’ll screw up.” “You’ll hurt me if I give you a chance.” I saw dozens of variations on this theme all through the hashtag. And it got me to thinking.

“I will limit my behavior in this way because I know my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap” can be a reasonable approach to healthy boundary-setting. But I see the potential for abuse when it becomes “I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can’t be trusted to keep your commitments.”"

I can't tell you how many times I've seen this play out in destructive ways. It seems to me that the people who are most interested in the latter example ("I want this rule because your decision-making skills are crap; you can't be trusted") are more likely to be the sort of person who is actually abusive. The ones who make rules for themselves, however ("I will limit my behaviour because my in-the-moment decision skills are a bit crap") are exactly the ones who do not need rules imposed on them in the first place because they are owning their own limitations and they're making their own rules out of concern and compassion, rather than edict and imposition.

This goes back to [livejournal.com profile] tacit's saying "if your partner truly loves and cherishes you and wants to honor your relationship, a rule isn't necessary; if your partner doesn't cherish you, a rule won't make them".

I attended a poly meeting once. In it was an
asterisk family (a single person with multiple partners) who were first-time visitors to that group. It was a guy who had two female live-in partners and a third girlfriend (if I recall correctly; there were definitely two live in partners so it could have been a V but I'm pretty sure there was a third girl in there somewhere). When he and his original partner first opened up their relationship, he had no rules imposed on him. He just found another girl, dated her, moved her in, and that was that. Same with his newest girlfriend. His original partner struggled with it but eventually learned to accept it (it is not clear if she actually embraces and cares for the other girls, but she didn't seem terribly resentful).

Now the original female partner was branching out to find partners of her own. She had finally managed to get the guy to grudgingly release the One Penis Policy and was dating men. Except her existing partner hated everyone she chose. He went on at great length to explain to the group, in front of his partners, how his original partner had terrible decision making skills and partner-selection skills; she had absolutely no ability whatsoever to make good sexual decisions. So he, of course, had to be the responsible one and step up to interview all her prospective dates to make sure that they passed muster*.

His entire justification just dripped condescension and paternalism. I mean, he was cruel in his description of her. She tried to get a word in to defend herself now and then, but he talked over her and quickly put her back in her place. Other attendees tried to very gently steer him into being more accepting and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that this was some sort of healthy BDSM dynamic and not an abusive relationship, but by the end of his defense, his partner was in tears and she ran out of the building. When he started in about "women just have different methods of dating" and "women just aren't as good at ...", that's pretty much when I lost my own shit and the whole group erupted into a shouting match; I was down to only one word by that point, "bullshit".

On the other hand, I have known people who fully understand that they get twitterpated easily and have asked their existing partners and friends to reality-check them. I like to use [livejournal.com profile] tacit's observations skills for that purpose, but he's far too accepting of my ability to make my own decisions to ever tell me that someone I'm interested in is a bad choice, so it doesn't actually work very well to have him be my reality check. *Sigh* the downsides to dating someone who completely accepts your autonomy and consent and trusts you to make your own decisions, I suppose

I, myself, have frequently told would-be suitors that I could not do certain activities because I had a "rule" about when and under what circumstances I could do things. Occasionally, one of those pursuers (and I use that word intentionally, because these types of situations are usually not a back-and-forth discussion about boundaries, but me trying to put the brakes on someone else's aggressive advances) would have actually paid attention to my previous rants against rules and say something like "I thought you didn't do rules?" or "but he doesn't have to know!" (the latter ones don't get any further than that, btw), and I would clarify that these are MY rules for MYSELF, so breaking them would, in fact, be known by the very person they were most important to.

Of course, it is also up to me to decide when I can and can't break them, because they're my "rules". The point is that they are not rules imposed on me by someone else. They are limitations I impose on myself for reasons that happen to be limitations that my other partners are comfortable with me imposing on myself. This actually makes them boundaries, not rules, although English does funny things so sometimes we might use the word "rule" when we mean "boundary" (and vice versa as well).  As soon as it becomes someone *else* saying "you can't make this decision for yourself, I have to make it for you," that's when my autonomy is threatened. And when autonomy is threatened, that is not a healthy situation to be in.

An agreement is more about expectations. If I make an agreement with a partner, that means they have a reasonable expectation of me doing or not doing certain things. But it it STILL my choice to live up to that agreement or not. It never becomes something that my partner is preventing me from doing. It is always something that *I* am choosing to do or not do for myself. It never comes to "well, I WOULD do this thing with you, except I promised my other partner I wouldn't do it." It is always "I made this agreement because I believe not doing this thing with you is the better choice for me, so even if I hadn't made this agreement, I still wouldn't want to do this thing with you because it's not the better choice."  The former foists the responsibility, and hence the power and the agency, onto someone else.  The latter is using the psychological trick of stating one's commitments to reinforce or cement the willpower to maintain those decisions during times when pressures to ignore those decisions compete with the desire to maintain those decisions.

I've seen too many people use the word "agreement" but behave as though they were rules, with one person dictating another's behaviour, relationships hinging on 100% follow-through of the agreement, and no ability to renegotiate or alter the agreement if it doesn't work for someone in the future, relationships being literally irreparable after an agreement is even sort of kind of nudged a little, and those "agreements" used as blunt weapons with which to beat someone over the head with piety or towing the line**.

So I'm even more careful now to avoid words that imply some sort of contract and to avoid relationships with people who use that kind of language, including the word "agreement". I never again want to be in a relationship with someone where I can say "this is my Standard Operating Procedure, generally speaking, so you know what kinds of things to expect from me" and they hear "from this day forth, I hereby pledge my undying soul to live up to this procedure at all times and at all costs to make you happy or forfeit your trust and this relationship forevermore and you hereby agree to the same so that every time you have the opportunity to break this agreement and don't, you can be given cookies for being a Noble and Honorable Partner."


I now know far more about what an abusive relationship looks like from the inside, and how reasonable, rational, intelligent, self-respecting people can find themselves in one, and how the abuser can justify their actions, even making themselves look like the victims of abuse to those on the outside.  Unfortunately, I can now see some of the more subtle red flags that mark the sorts of mindsets that often lead to abusive behaviour.  I hate to see people have to learn that same lesson the hard way when they don't have to, but people will always think that their situation is completely unique and no one ever felt what they're feeling, so people will justify, excuse, and jump in blindly even with warnings from people who have gone before them.

I do not do rules. I do boundaries.  I make my own limitations and restrictions and it is completely within my power to determine when to flex those boundaries and when not to - when to give and revoke consent for my body, my mind, my emotions, my space, and my limitations.  I.  Do.  Not.  Do.  Rules.  It's like putting a drunk chimp into the gunner's cockpit with all barrels armed with nuclear warheads and all safety protocols turned off. Sure, there's a chance that the monkey won't hit the giant red "fire" button in the center of the console, but I wouldn't bet money on it and the consequences for betting wrong are disastrous.



* Site note: as a person with the Love Language of Words of Affirmation, I can't tell you how offensive I thought this behaviour was.  To publicly demoralize one's partner is one of the most hurtful things I think another person can do, even if their own Love Language isn't Words of Affirmation.  It's even worse, from my perspective, than physically assaulting a partner in public, because a public assault may be intervened and is a much clearer case when it comes to legal proceedings.  But to just insult a partner matter of factly like he did was vicious and cruel, and judging by her reaction, I think she feels the same, even if she's too tightly buried in that abusive relationship to admit it.  Emotional abuse is sometimes hard to identify, especially from the inside but also sometimes by onlookers, but I would say he was clearly being abusive and using the D/s angle to hide it.  That's the danger with the BSDM community - it too easily hides abusers like this because there are no safety measures to distinguish between consensual dominating / humiliation play and actual abuse.

Also people are way too easy to fall back on "your kink is not my kink and that's OK".  While that is a very important mindset to learn acceptance of diversity, it is, in my observation, used to ignore abuse.  I have a whole other post brewing about that concept.

** A healthy relationship where two people believe in consent and agency and fully trust each other to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are more important than the relationship, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person ultimately accepts the first person's decision even if it hurts or they feel a sense of loss or they need to renegotiate the relationship in light of new information.

An unhealthy relationship where at least one person does not grant the other person the right to their own agency and does not fully trust them to make the best decisions for themselves, a relationship in which the people are less important than the relationship itself, is one where someone choosing to do something contrary to a previously stated agreement is one where the other person throws their own adherence to the agreement back at the first person as "proof" of their nobility, how much better of a partner they are than the first person, using punishment & reminders of "but you agreed to this!" to reinforce the desired behaviour and attacks the first person's very humanity for choosing to revoke consent, change the agreement, want something different, or even legitimately having a lapse in judgment.  This is fundamentally different from the other person choosing to renegotiate the relationship and/or revoke some kind of consent themselves in light of the previous agreement now being changed or broken - that's maintaining one's own boundaries.
joreth: (Super Tech)
I woke up this morning to thoughts of my stalker.  His so-far-last text to me was asking if we could still be friends, after I insulted him and was condescending to him and told him that I loathed him.  In my head, I continued the conversation (because that's what my brain does, which is partly why online arguments are so damaging to me - I end up losing sleep by continuing arguments, whether I continue them IRL or not).  In my head, I continued with a horrified and offended tone, saying "no, we can't be friends, you fuckwad!  I will not be Girlfriendzoned!" which of course required me to explain what girlfriendzoning was.

Because I was not yet fully awake when I had this conversation in my head, I jumped to two other scenarios simultaneously.  One was the following thought: "It's very sad, now there's some perfectly nice guy, a real nice guy and not a Nice Guy, who shares my interest, my hobbies, my passions, who may come into my store someday and who will spark a connection between us, and I'll be unable to trust him even enough to give out my number because of this incident.  This situation has created an opportunity lost that is no fault of the nice guy, but he will feel the consequences and we'll both lose because of this asshole."

The other was a conversation with clueless-but-nice-guys about why this whole thing was such a big deal and what girlfriendzoning was.  I said "The Girlfriendzone is where some guys put a girl in a category in their head of being Girlfriend material (or sex partner material), even after she rejects him, and they use her offer of friendship as a door stopper to try and wedge themselves into her life as a future boyfriend (or lover), only to get progressively more whiny and demanding and resentful when she proceeds to give them nothing but what she offered in the first place - a friendship.  This is where an offered friendship with a girl is not viewed as the gift that it is, but as leverage to try and get something out of her without her consent by deceptively coercing her into a relationship that she has already said she doesn't want."

Being girlfriendzoned does what this stalker has done to me - it makes people put up walls and create defenses to prevent being put in that position again.  Usually it takes several times of similar situations before we start building those defenses.  The first time, maybe it was subtle so we didn't see the warning flags for what they are and we just naively missed the warning flags the next time, so it might take several times before we see the pattern.  Or maybe the first time wasn't subtle but we think it can't possibly be a normal experience and we write it off as an anomoly.  So by the time you meet someone with walls, you can safely assume that this sort of thing has either happened to her many times or it has happened to her with such disasterous consequences that it justified building walls after only one exposure.

But what this means is that real nice guys (I mean people who are genuinely nice and who genuinely care about other human beings and who do not see them as need fulfillment machines, not Nice Guys who are people who are actually not nice because they are subversive and coercive and resentful and do see people as tools to fulfill their needs rather than whole people with their own agency and their own right to reject them) actually suffer some consequences from these kinds of assholes who are responsible for the walls going up in the first place.

I've been told by some men that it's not fair to be feared when they haven't done anything wrong.  I agree, it's not fair.  Life isn't fair.  Nature has never had any interest in fairness.  Nature has no problem with a system that requires trading in one life for another (the food chain) or smacking an asteroid into a planet and killing off almost all life in one blow.  Nature has never heard of the word "fair".  That's a human value, and often a misplaced value, in my opinion.  But what's more unfair is being stalked or harassed or raped or violated or murdered all because some narcissist thinks he has the right to someone else's body.  In the grand scheme of things, being "feared" (which really means being put in the "uncertain until otherwise proven" category) is far preferable to being afraid with reason.

But it's not fair.  It would be wonderful if we could all start with blank slates and give all nice people enough of an opening to start out by being respected instead of feared.  However, the way we accomplish that is not to browbeat the very people who have been traumatized into trusting you before you've earned any trust.  People are right to be upset at living in a society where people are feared on sight because of what someone else who shares superficial traits did.  But here are two things that you can *actually* do to fix this problem that don't involve justifying those exact walls that you're upset about in the first place.

1) When you meet someone who you are interested in romantically or sexually, you can first be clear about your intentions and wishes for the kind of relationship you are interested in and then you can indicate in clear and plain terms that there is no expectation for reciprocation; if they are not interested, it's OK with you, and that if they find you worthy of bestowing an offer of friendship instead, that you accept it freely and without obligation or coercion to use that offer as a back door into the kind of relationship that you *really* want.  And then you have to MEAN it.  If you are not willing to accept a friendship, or if you think of it as a consolation prize instead of the gift that it is, be willing to say up front that you are not interested in a friendship, but thank them for the offer and recognize its value, and then go your separate ways with no consequences for the other person for having rejected you.  Leave a trail of people who can have at least one example to point to of someone who takes responsibility for his own emotions and does not make them responsible for soothing his hurt ego when there are mismatched relationship desires.

2) This is actually the most important part, although the first one is also very important.  When you hear other people complaining about being friendzoned or whining about being rejected, you can say something to them about it.  Especially if you are both in a male category.  You can tell them that they are being disrespectful and unreasonable and coercive.  You can explain that the reason why their target* is behaving the way that she is, it's because of other guys doing exactly what they're doing or other guys doing worse so that it's reasonable for her to behave this way (or at least understandable and deserving of compassion).  You, who have nothing in that dogfight, who is not the target and not the competition and not affected by the outcome of this specific situation in any way, you can step in and tell the other person that he is, in fact, the person in the wrong here.

You will probably not see any culture-changing results or immediate changes in any individual situation.  Don't try these steps thinking that you are now the Rape-Culture Crusader, bashing in minds with your impeccable logic and your superpower of thinking of women as human beings with their own agency.  You will probably lose some "friends" over it, or have strange men at bars yell at you for butting your nose into their business.  It will take lots of people having lots of these conversations for a long time before we see a change.  But because it will take lots of people, your individual contribution is necessary to make this long-term change.  YOU will become a better person for doing these two things, and you will start to see benefits in your own personal life eventually, perhaps in small ways at first.

We change the culture by providing enough examples of the kind of culture we want to have to reach a tipping point.  That's what is meant by "be the change you wish to see in the world".  You have to go out there and be the example and you have to do it in a way that other people can see.  That includes using the privilege of being in the same class as someone else to tell him things that he won't hear coming from someone in another class.  It is a scientific fact that people in general tend to listen to other people that we feel are similar to us in certain ways and to dismiss arguments more easily from people that we feel are "different" in key ways.  What those ways are depends on both the issue and the values of the person doing the judging.  So it is important to use our superficial similarities to open that conversation and to tell people the things that they won't want to hear if they come from someone else.

We change the culture by being an example of what we wish to see.  That includes going out on a limb and saying things that might feel awkward or uncomfortable, such as frequently checking in for consent throughout sex and making an offer of a relationship clear instead of hiding behind a joke that can be written off and then making it clear that there are no strings attached to that offer and that you are responsible for your own emotions so that your interest can have the freedom to consent (which also means the freedom to say "no").  But for step #2, it means being nosy and giving your honest opinion to strangers and friends alike that you disapprove of the position they are presenting and why.  It will feel awkward and uncomfortable if you are not currently in the habit of telling people that you think they are wrong.  It can be done subtly or, like me, by crashing into them with a clue-by-four - you choose your own method.  But I believe that it needs to be done, one way or another.

You, by yourself, are not going to change the culture even by doing the two things I suggested faithfully.  But the change will not happen without you.  It will take every one of us to do our part.  If you ever knew someone who has been harassed, assaulted, raped, pressured, stalked, who has high walls and is afraid to trust, if you ever wished that life didn't have to be as unfair as it is, please do these two things.  And talk about how you do these two things.  And implore others to do these two things.  We don't need to be "rescued", we don't need to be taught martial arts, we don't need to be told how to react to the shit we get in life.  What we need is for other people to recognize the root causes of this shit and address *that* instead of us.  People's walls and defenses are a symptom and if you want people to let their walls down, then you have to treat the disease.


*I used the word "target" deliberately.  Very often, the people (and it's usually women) whom these people (usually men) are interested in are not recognized as humans.  They are seen as targets.  They are dehumanized and villified and seen as need-fulfillment machines.  They are seen as something to be aquired based on what they can do for the person in question, like Pokemon balls.  I used the word "target" not because *I* see people as targets, but because the people I'm talking about do and I think it's important to make note of that.
joreth: (Misty in Box)

“If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.”

~ Chris Clarke

It's important to note that "an undercurrent of fear of men" does not mean "is a perpetual victim and terrified of all men". It means that fear of any given man turning out to be one of the few bad men who will harm her is a motivation for almost every choice she makes in her life, from what she wears in public to how she walks to her car to her habit of calling home when she's late to freaking out when her loved ones don't call home when they're late to where she parks her car to what stores she's willing to shop at to what her daily schedule is so she can time her errands according to when she believes she is least likely to be accosted, and much more.

This "undercurrent of fear" is very subtle and sometimes not even a conscious, deliberate thought. But she might choose to wear pants one night instead of a skirt, and justify it with the cold weather, but really it's to avoid being called a slut (because only sluts wear skirts in cold weather, or something). Or she might choose to wear sweats and no makeup to the grocery store just to avoid someone flirting with her. Or she might choose to read a book on the bus and say it's because she likes to read (which is true) but it's also very convenient for avoiding eye contact with strange men.

It is not an outright, terrifying, panicking sort of thing. Most women who feel this will often come across as stable, confident, self-assured, capable. It's the same sort of fear that prompts people to buckle our seatbelt. We're not shaking in our seats every time we get into a car, but the undercurrent of fear that we might possibly, at some point, have a car accident informs our behaviour, often in very small ways.

And then to hedge off anyone who wants to jump in with "but I'm a woman and *I* don't feel any generalized fear of men! I'm not afraid of any man unless he actually does something threatening!  So this doesn't apply to me, therefore you're just using hyperbole in your crazy feminazi misandrist rhetoric!"

OK, so no one has (so far) accused me of being misandrist by posting this quote (but I have gotten feminazi, misandrist, and whiny cunt for posting a video made by a man asking other men to stop supporting rapists, so I'm STILL not being hyperbolic), however I did get a comment almost immediately on Facebook saying that it didn't apply to her, personally. As I told her, it doesn't have to be true for every single woman on the planet. The statement says "If NO woman in your life ... consider the possibility that it may..." (also note the use of passive terms, all the better to avoid the aggressive uppity woman who doesn't know her place accusation).

The important point is not to say that every single woman lives in terror of all men because that would be patently untrue. The important point is for men to understand that this is a much bigger problem than many men are aware of and their lack of awareness might possibly be BECAUSE they are part of the problem in some way.
joreth: (Bad Computer!)
Just so you know, when a person goes out of their way to avoid publishing identifying information about themselves on the internet, like their real name or current location, it is incredibly creepy to then publicly message them on social media with that information (it can be creepy to privately message them with that info too, but there is some nuance there that I don't feel like addressing right now; just to be safe, assume it's creepy in private too). Even if you know them or met them in person. Even if you aren't being "threatening" when you do it. Even if you think you're being friendly about it. ESPECIALLY if you think you're being friendly about it. Then you're both creepy and oblivious.

CREE-EE-PY.

When you publish personal and/or identifying information about someone who has deliberately not published that information (and worse, not told YOU that information), you are:

1) stalking
2) being invasive
3) dismissing, disrespecting, or disregarding personal boundaries
4) some combination of the above
5) all of the above

Even if that isn't your intent. Your intent to be creepy is irrelevant when deciding if you are, in fact, being creepy. The person who gets to decide if you're being creepy is the one who is creeped out by you. Period. I don't care if it's "not fair", only the person whose boundaries you just stomped on gets to decide how hurt they feel over it. Just like the person who is offended by a racist, sexist, homophobic, or other -ism slur is the one who gets to decide if it was racist, sexist, homophobic, or other -ist, not you (and not your token "friend" who thought it was funny, either).

If you step on my toe, your intent to harm me does not matter and you do not get to dictate whether my toe should feel hurt or not. Don't keep standing on my foot defending your right to stand on my foot and complaining about the tone of my yelling. GET THE FUCK OFF MY FOOT.

And don't post identifying information about people online. It's, at best, rude, and at worst, putting someone in danger. If you're not a reporter doing an expose on some dangerous criminal or underground organization, or with law enforcement (and don't get me started on the tangles of THAT hornet's nest), you probably don't know when it's in the public's best interest to know something, so just don't.
joreth: (Misty in Box)


"Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


America is built upon the backs of those less fortunate. It's past time we offered our gratitude and made good on our promises. Ours is a bloody, violent history filled with an ever-growing list of amends for mistakes made at the expense of humanity. We have not yet caught up to our ideals. We have made progress, but social inertia threatens to lull us into coasting the rest of the way into our future, teasing us with the lure of easy, downhill motion while masking the other part of that physics equation - the drag without constant vigilance and deliberate effort will eventually pull us to a stop.

Now is the time to take advantage of our downhill momentum by easing into even greater forward motion with the gravity of our situation currently on our side. To our future, we give the fruits of the labor of those tired, poor, huddled masses. Will they be succulent fruits to nourish our children, or will they be dry, grey, wrinkled on the vine, leaving our children to a bleak existence because of our arrogance and flawed planning? Our future is written by us, and the outcome depends wholly on how we treat the characters of our past and our present.

Picture published on BAMN - Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary website (http://www.bamn.com/social-justice/yearning-to-breathe-free-bamn-declaration-on-immigrant-rights)

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